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Am Nat. 2004 Jul;164(1):25-37. Epub 2004 Jun 7.

Lost in time, lonely, and single: reproductive asynchrony and the Allee effect.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, 20742, USA.


Identifying linkages between life-history traits and small population processes is essential to effective multispecies conservation. Reproductive asynchrony, which occurs when individuals are reproductively active for only a portion of the population-level breeding period, may provide one such link. Traditionally, reproductive asynchrony has been considered from evolutionary perspectives as an advantageous bet-hedging strategy in temporally unpredictable environments. Here, we explore the dynamic consequences of reproductive asynchrony as a density-dependent life-history trait. To examine how asynchrony affects population growth rate and extinction risk, we used a general model of reproductive timing to quantify the temporal overlap of opposite-sex individuals and to simulate population dynamics over a range of initial densities and empirical estimates of reproductive asynchrony. We also considered how protandry, a sexually selected life-history strategy that often accompanies asynchrony, modulates the population-level effects of reproductive asynchrony. We found that asynchrony decreases the number of males a female overlaps with, decreases the average probability of mating per male/female pair that does overlap, and leaves some females completely isolated in time. This loss of reproductive potential, which is exacerbated by protandry, reduces population growth rate at low density and can lead to extinction via an Allee effect. Thus reproductive asynchrony and protandry, both of which can be evolutionarily advantageous at higher population densities, may prove detrimental when population density declines.

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