Reproductive strategies and body shape in the European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis) from contrasting habitats in Italy


Marco A. L. Zuffi, Museum of Natural History and Territory, University of Pisa, via Roma 79, 56011 Calci, Pisa, Italy. Tel: +39 050 2212967;
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Comparisons within and among populations offer important insights into variation in life-history traits and possible adaptive patterns to environmental conditions. We present the results of observed differences in body size, body shape and patterns of reproduction in four separate populations of the European pond turtle Emys orbicularis in central and southern Italy – coastal (n=3) and mountainous (n=1) sites and pond (n=2) and canal (n=2) habitats – to determine whether phenotypic plasticity affects reproductive output. Although we did not find any significant latitudinal variation in body size, we observed significant differences in body shape between canal (rounded body shape) and pond (elongated body shape) systems and smaller size with rounded shape in the mountainous population. Reproductive output is similar among populations (median=5 eggs per clutch), whereas reproductive investment (relative clutch mass to maternal body mass) is higher in the mountain population (one clutch per year) than in coastal populations (two clutches per year), suggesting differential trade-offs between geographic locality, elevation and habitat type. Turtle shell shape and geographic location together affect reproductive output in E. orbicularis in Italy.