Clines of biological variation result from variation in physical environmental conditions. We report new reproductive data for a population of antelope ground squirrels, Ammospermophilus leucurus, at the northern geographic limit of this species. We then analyze reproductive patterns at 3 sites spanning the entire north–south extent of the geographic range, covering more than 2,500 km and 21 degrees of latitude. The overall breeding season of populations is relatively short in Oregon (42°N) and California (37°N), but in Baja California (24°N) it encompasses half a year. Mean litter size decreases significantly from north to south, from 9.3 (SD = 1.8) per litter in Oregon to 5.9 (SD = 1.5) in Baja California. Major shifts in seasonality of precipitation and ecosystem composition and diversity are associated with longer breeding season and lower litter size at the southern geographic extreme of A. leucurus. The environmental predictability for the northern populations is due to “constancy,” whereas the predictability at the southern extreme is due to “contingency.” The observed latitudinal reproductive patterns represent local responses of populations to environmental conditions and the related characteristics of North America's major desert ecosystems.
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