The physiological mechanisms underlying the ‘cost of reproduction’ remain under debate, though oxidative stress has emerged as a potential candidate. The ‘oxidative cost of reproduction’ has received considerable attention with regards to food and antioxidant availability, however the limitation of water availability has thus far been neglected. In this study we experimentally examined the combined effect of pregnancy and water-deprivation on oxidative status in a viviparous snake (Vipera aspis), a species naturally exposed to periods of water and food deprivation. We predicted a cumulative effect of pregnancy and dehydration on oxidative stress levels. Our results support the occurrence of an oxidative cost of reproduction since we found higher oxidative damage levels in pregnant females than in non-reproductive individuals, despite an up-regulation of antioxidant defences. Surprisingly, water-deprivation was associated with an up-regulation of antioxidant defences, and did not increase oxidative damage, either alone or in combination with reproduction.
- Received January 18, 2017.
- Accepted March 8, 2017.
- © 2017. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd