Factors affecting litter size in Western Gartersnake (Thamnophis elegans) in British Columbia: place, time, and size of mother


  • Patrick T. Gregory University of Victoria
  • Daniel R. Farr Alberta Environment and Parks




Gartersnake, Thamnophis elegans, British Columbia, litter size, body size


Life-history traits of organisms are influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. We used counts of offspring in captive-born litters to determine how geographic location, year-to-year variation, and body size of mother affected litter size of Western Gartersnake (Thamnophis elegans) in four widely separated populations in British Columbia. Litter size varied significantly among populations, but that variation was largely explained by differences in maternal body size among populations; that is, larger females had larger litters. With maternal size treated as a covariate, there was no further significant effect of location or of different years within sites on litter size. The overall regression, pooled over sites and years, between litter size and size of mother accounted for 55% of the total variation in litter size. Nonetheless, the significant variation in body size among locations calls for explanation and the consequent differences in litter size could be important demographically. Presumably, the large amount of unexplained residual variation reflects other differences, beyond body size, between individual mothers. Such differences among individuals might be determined by genetics or by environmental effects such as foraging success, but our data cannot address this question.

Author Biographies

Patrick T. Gregory, University of Victoria

Department of Biology, Professor

Daniel R. Farr, Alberta Environment and Parks

Environmental Monitoring and Science Division