Campus Units

Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology, Statistics

Document Type


Publication Version

Accepted Manuscript

Publication Date


Journal or Book Title

Evolutionary Ecology





First Page


Last Page





In oviparous vertebrates lacking parental care, resource allocation during reproduction is a major maternal effect that may enhance female fitness. In general, resource allocation strategies are expected to follow optimality models to solve the energy trade‐offs between egg size and number. Such models predict that natural selection should optimize egg size while egg number is expected to vary with female size, thus maximizing offspring fitness and consequently, maternal fitness. Deviations from optimality predictions are commonly attributed to morphological constraints imposed by female size, such as reported for smallbodied turtle species. However, whether such anatomical constraints exist in smaller‐bodied females within large‐bodied clades remains unstudied. Here we tested whether resource allocation of the river turtle Podocnemis unifilis (a relatively smaller member of the largebodied Podocnemididae) follows optimality theory, and found a pattern of egg elongation in smaller females that provides evidence of morphological constraints and of a reproductive trade‐off with clutch size, whereas egg width supports the existence of an optimal egg size and no trade‐off. Moreover, larger females laid larger clutches composed of rounder eggs, while smaller females laid fewer and relatively more elongated eggs. Elongated eggs from smaller females have larger volume relative to female size and to round eggs of equal width. We propose that elongated eggs represent a solution to a potential morphological constraint suffered by small females. Our results suggest that larger females may optimize fitness by increasing the number of eggs, while smaller females do so by producing larger eggs. Our data supports the notion that morphological constraints are likely more widespread than previously anticipated, such that they may not be exclusive of small‐bodied lineages but may also exist in large‐bodied lineages.


This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Evolutionary Ecology. The final authenticated version is available online at: Posted with permission.

Copyright Owner

Springer International Publishing AG



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Published Version