Reproductive ecology of the slow worm (Anguis fragilis) in the northwest Iberian Peninsula

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The reproductive characteristics of the slow worm (Anguis fragilis) were studied in A Coruña (Galicia, NW Spain) in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002. Data were mainly obtained through pregnant females captured in natural populations which subsequently gave birth under controlled conditions in the laboratory and the resulting neonates were examined. Marked individuals in a field population were also monitored. This field study allowed us to gain knowledge of the activity and reproductive cycle of the monitored population. A total of 68 births and 468 neonates were obtained, allowing us to determine the basic reproductive characteristics of the populations studied such as the litter size, offspring weight, offspring size and minimum maturity size for females: 135-150 mm snout vent length (SVL). The relationship between several variables related to offspring and their mothers showed a positive relation between size and mass of the litter and offspring with maternal size. A relationship between maternal tail length and litter mass was not observed. Unlike other studied populations of this species, most of the females of the A Coruña population (88.8%) reproduce annually. We found a probable relationship between female annual reproductive output and latitude, likely related to differences in environmental temperature. The activity cycle for the monitored population (from February to mid-December) is the longest known for the species.

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