Zoological Research ›› 2017, Vol. 38 ›› Issue (2): 81-87.doi: 10.24272/j.issn.2095-8137.2017.011

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Food restriction affects maternal investment but not neonate phenotypes in a viviparous lizard

Yang Wang1,2, Zhi-Gao Zeng1, Liang Ma1,2, Shu-Ran Li1,2, Wei-Guo Du1   

  1. 1 Key Laboratory of Animal Ecology and Conservational Biology, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China;
    2 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2017-01-24 Revised:2017-03-03 Online:2017-03-18 Published:2017-03-18
  • Contact: Wei-Guo Du E-mail:duweiguo@ioz.ac.cn
  • Supported by:

    Foundation items:This study was supported by the grant from the National Natural Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars (31525006)


Food availability significantly affects an animal's energy metabolism, and thus its phenotype, survival, and reproduction. Maternal and offspring responses to food conditions are critical for understanding population dynamics and life-history evolution of a species. In this study, we conducted food manipulation experiments in field enclosures to identify the effect of food restriction on female reproductive traits and postpartum body condition, as well as on hatchling phenotypes, in a lacertid viviparous lizard from the Inner Mongolian desert steppe of China. Females under low-food availability treatment (LFT) had poorer immune function and body condition compared with those under high-food availability treatment (HFT). The food availability treatments significantly affected the litter size and litter mass of the females, but not their gestation period in captivity or brood success, or the body size, sprint speed, and sex ratio of the neonates. Females from the LFT group had smaller litter sizes and, therefore, lower litter mass than those from the HFT group. These results suggest that female racerunners facing food restriction lay fewer offspring with unchanged body size and locomotor performance, and incur a cost in the form of poor postpartum body condition and immune function. The flexibility of maternal responses to variable food availability represents an important life strategy that could enhance the resistance of lizards to unpredictable environmental change.

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