The cost of reproduction: the devil in the details

Lawrence G. Harshman, Anthony J. Zera

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

501 Scopus citations


The cost of reproduction is of fundamental importance in life-history evolution. However, our understanding of its mechanistic basis has been limited by a lack of detailed functional information at all biological levels. Here, we identify, evaluate and integrate recent studies in five areas examining the proximate mechanisms underlying the cost of reproduction. Rather than being alternate explanations, hormonal regulation and intermediary metabolism act in concert and have an overarching influence in shaping the cost of reproduction. Immune function is compromised by reproduction, as is resistance to environmental stress. These studies not only provide new information about mechanisms that comprise 'the cost', but also hint at an underlying evolutionarily conserved causal mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)80-86
Number of pages7
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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