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Growth and maturity of a terrestrial ectotherm near its northern distributional limit does latitude matter

, : Growth and maturity of a terrestrial ectotherm near its northern distributional limit does latitude matter. Canadian Journal of Zoology 90(6): 758-765

High-latitude environments are challenging for terrestrial ectotherms because short and cool active seasons generally limit the time available for foraging and growth, thereby negatively influencing life-history variables such as growth rate and age at maturity and ultimately, via fitness differences, their evolution. Many species show latitudinal clines in life-history traits, including growth rate and body size. We estimated growth curves of Plains Garter Snakes (Thamnophis radix (Baird and Girard, 1853)) near the northern limit of the species' range in central Alberta and compared our findings to similar estimates for more southerly populations. Despite a short growing season, female T. radix at Miquelon Lake grew rapidly, reaching maturity in 1 or 2 years, similar to southern populations, and attained greater maximum sizes than snakes in southern populations. Overall, growth in this high-latitude population is comparable with what is seen in other conspecific populations. Possible reasons for lack of marked latitudinal effect include longer days at high latitudes, highly productive aquatic habitats for foraging, effective thermoregulation, reduced competition, and (or) countergradient variation in growth rate.


DOI: 10.1139/z2012-044

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