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A test of reproductive power in snakes


Boback, Scott M.
Guyer, Craig


Reproductive power is a contentious concept among ecologists, and the model has been criticized on theoretical and empirical grounds. Despite these criticisms, the model has successfully predicted the modal (optimal) size in three large taxonomic groups and the shape of the body size distribution in two of these groups. We tested the reproductive power model on snakes, a group that differs markedly in physiology, foraging ecology, and body shape from the endothermic groups upon which the model was derived. Using detailed field data from the published literature, snake-specific constants associated with reproductive power were determined using allometric relationships of energy invested annually in egg production and population productivity. The resultant model accurately predicted the mode and left side of the size distribution for snakes but failed to predict the right side of that distribution. If the model correctly describes what is possible in snakes, observed size diversity is limited, especially in the largest size classes.