Fecundity, derived from the word fecund, generally refers to the ability to reproduce. In demography, fecundity is the potential reproductive capacity of an individual or population. In biology, the definition is more equivalent to fertility, or the actual reproductive rate of an organism or population, measured by the number of gametes (eggs), seed set, or asexual propagules. This difference is because demography considers human fecundity which is often intentionally limited through contraception, while biology assumes that organisms do not limit fertility. Fecundity is under both genetic and environmental control, and is the major measure of fitness. Fecundation is another term for fertilization. Superfecundity refers to an organism's ability to store another organism's sperm (after copulation) and fertilize its own eggs from that store after a period of time, essentially making it appear as though fertilization occurred without sperm (i.e. parthenogenesis).
Fecundity is important and well studied in the field of population ecology. Fecundity can increase or decrease in a population according to current conditions and certain regulating factors. For instance, in times of hardship for a population, such as a lack of food, juvenile and eventually adult fecundity has been shown to decrease (i.e. due to a lack of resources the juvenile individuals are unable to reproduce, eventually the adults will run out of resources and reproduction will cease).
Fecundity has also been shown to increase in ungulates with relation to warmer weather.
- Etienne van de Valle (adapted by), from the French section edited by Louis Henry (1982). "Fecundity". Multilingual demographic dictionary, English section, second edition. Demopaedia.org, national Union for the Scientific Study of Population. p. 621-1. Retrieved 8 February 2010.
- Eugene Grebenik (1958). "Fecundity". Multilingual demographic dictionary, English section Prepared by the Demographic Dictionary Committee of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population. Demopaedia.org, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). p. 621-1. Retrieved 8 February 2010.
- Berek JS and Novak E. Berek & Novak's gynecology. 14th ed. 2007, Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Pg. 1186
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