• costs of reproduction;
  • geographical variation;
  • life history evolution;
  • Niveoscincus ocellatus;
  • relative clutch mass;
  • reproductive effort;
  • sprint speed


Reproductive costs are important determinants of reproductive effort in squamate reptiles. Consequently, differences in costs of reproduction between populations of geographically or climatically widespread species are likely to result in different patterns of reproductive effort. In the present study, the effect of pregnancy on sprint speed was examined in a small viviparous skink, Niveoscincus ocellatus (Gray 1845), from two populations at the climatic extremes of its distribution. Decreased sprint speed has the potential to be an important cost of reproduction in this species, through a reduced ability to avoid predation and/or decreased foraging efficiency. Lizards inhabiting the colder site were larger than those from the warmer site and, contrary to predictions from life history theory, had a higher reproductive effort. In both populations, sprint speed was lower in pregnant lizards than in either the same individuals after birth or non-pregnant control lizards. Within each population, sprint speed was unrelated to the level of reproductive effort of the female in terms of either absolute mass of the reproductive burden or the burden relative to her post-partum body mass. However, within each population, the mass of the clutch that an individual female was carrying relative to snout–vent length was an important determinant of her sprint speed while pregnant. Thus, within each population, a relatively high reproductive burden may potentially increase costs of reproduction in this species. Despite this relationship and predictions from life history theory suggesting that annual reproductive effort will be lower in populations with a large body size and delayed maturity, it is suggested that a higher reproductive effort at the cold site is possible because they have a higher absolute sprint speed because of their larger size and a relatively higher abundance of cover at the cold site, and differences in predation pressure may alter selective pressures on reproductive investment.