Section: Ecology
Topic: Ecology, Evolution, Population biology

Evolutionary determinants of reproductive seasonality: A theoretical approach

10.24072/pcjournal.286 - Peer Community Journal, Volume 3 (2023), article no. e56.

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Reproductive seasonality is a major adaptation to seasonal cycles and varies substantially among organisms. This variation, which was long thought to reflect a simple latitudinal gradient, remains poorly understood for many species, in part due to a lacunary theoretical framework. Because seasonal cycles are increasingly disrupted by climate change, a better understanding of the ecology of reproductive seasonality could generate important insights on how climate change may affect biodiversity. The goal of this study was to investigate the drivers of evolutionary transitions towards reproductive seasonality using a realistic agent-based optimisation model simulating the life cycle of a female yellow baboon, who typically breeds year-round. Specifically, we tested the influence of three ecological traits (environmental seasonality, productivity and unpredictability) and three life-history traits (daily reproductive energy expenditure, reproductive cycle length and infant extrinsic mortality) on the intensity of reproductive seasonality. To do so, we simulated diverse reproductive phenology strategies (from non-seasonal to highly seasonal), assessed which were optimal and computed, for the set of optimal strategies, the intensity of reproductive seasonality. We then induced variation in each trait of interest and examined how it affected the intensity of reproductive seasonality. We found substantial effects of all three environmental traits: high reproductive seasonality was favoured by high environmental seasonality, low environmental productivity and low unpredictability. It was further, and most strongly, favoured by high daily reproductive energy expenditure. In contrast, there was no effect of reproductive cycle length and infant extrinsic mortality. Our modelling approach successfully disentangled the effects of environmental seasonality, productivity and unpredictability on the intensity of reproductive seasonality, which likely all contribute to generate the well-known association between latitude and reproductive seasonality. Our results further highlight the critical importance of life history pace on the evolution of reproductive seasonality. Overall, this study contributes a powerful theoretical framework and modelling tool that may apply across the life-history space, as well as sheds new light on the emergence and maintenance of non-seasonal breeding in slow-living species, including humans.

Published online:
DOI: 10.24072/pcjournal.286
Type: Research article
Burtschell, Lugdiwine 1, 2; Dezeure, Jules 1, 3; Huchard, Elise 1; Godelle, Bernard 1

1 Institute of Evolutionary Sciences of Montpellier (ISEM), UMR 5554, Université de Montpellier, CNRS, IRD, EPHE, Montpellier, France
2 AgroParisTech, Paris, France
3 Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CEFE), UMR 5175, Université de Montpellier, CNRS, IRD, EPHE, Montpellier, France
License: CC-BY 4.0
Copyrights: The authors retain unrestricted copyrights and publishing rights
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Burtschell, Lugdiwine; Dezeure, Jules; Huchard, Elise; Godelle, Bernard. Evolutionary determinants of reproductive seasonality: A theoretical approach. Peer Community Journal, Volume 3 (2023), article  no. e56. doi : 10.24072/pcjournal.286.

PCI peer reviews and recommendation, and links to data, scripts, code and supplementary information: 10.24072/pci.ecology.100470

Conflict of interest of the recommender and peer reviewers:
The recommender in charge of the evaluation of the article and the reviewers declared that they have no conflict of interest (as defined in the code of conduct of PCI) with the authors or with the content of the article.

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