Morphological and physiological changes during reproduction and their relationships to reproductive performance in a capital breeder

Zachary R. Stahlschmidt, Olivier Lourdais, Sophie Lorioux, Michael W. Butler, Jon R. Davis, Karine Salin, Yann Voituron, Dale Denardo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Current reproductive effort typically comes at a cost to future reproductive value by altering somatic function (e.g., growth or self-maintenance). Furthermore, effects of reproduction of ten depend on both fecundity and stage of reproduction, wherein allocation of resources into additional offspring and/ or stages of reproduction results in increased costs. Despite these widely accepted generalities, interindividual variation in the effects of reproduction is common-yet the proximate basis that allows some individuals to mitigate these detrimental effects is unclear. We serially measured several variables of morphology (e.g., musculature) and physiology (e.g., antioxidant defenses) in female Children's pythons (Antaresia childreni) throughout reproduction to examine how these traits change over the course of reproduction and whether certain physiological traits are associated with reduced effects of reproduction in some individuals. Reproduction in this capital breeder was associated with changes in both morphology and physiology, but only morphological changes varied with fecundity and among specific reproductive stages. During reproduction, we detected negative relationships between morphology and selfmaintenance (e.g., increased muscle allocation to reproduction was related to reduced immune function). Additionally, females that allocated resources more heavily into current reproduction also did so during future reproduction, and these females assimilated resources more efficiently, experienced reduced detriments to self-maintenance (e.g., lower levels of oxidative damage and glucocorticoids) during reproduction, and produced clutches with greater hatching success. Our results suggest that interindividual variation in specific aspects of physiology (assimilation efficiency and oxidative status) may drive variation in reproductive performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)398-409
Number of pages12
JournalPhysiological and Biochemical Zoology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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