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Fecundity is defined in two ways; in human demography, it is the potential for reproduction of a recorded population as opposed to a sole organism, while in population biology, it is considered similar to fertility,[1][2][3] the natural capability to produce offspring,[4] measured by the number of gametes (eggs), seed set, or asexual propagules. A lack of fertility is infertility while a lack of fecundity would be called sterility.

Human demography considers only human fecundity, at its culturally differing rates, while population biology studies all organisms. The term fecundity in population biology is often used to describe the rate of offspring production after one time step (often annual). In this sense, fecundity may include both birth rates and survival of young to that time step. While levels of fecundity vary geographically, it is generally a consistent feature of each culture. Fecundation is another term for fertilization. Superfecundity or retrofecundity 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).[citation needed]

Fecundity is important and well studied in the field of population ecology, though it is studied from a neutral perspective. Fecundity can increase or decrease in a population according to current conditions and certain social factors. For instance, in times of hardship for a population, such as a lack of food or high temperatures,[5] 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). Additionally, social trends and societal norms may influence fecundity, though this influence tends to be temporary. Indeed, it is considered impossible to cease reproduction based on social factors, and fecundity tends to rise after a brief decline.

Fecundity has also been shown to increase in ungulates with relation to warmer weather.[citation needed]

In sexual evolutionary biology, especially in sexual selection, fecundity is contrasted to reproductivity.

In obstetrics and gynecology, fecundability is the probability of being pregnant in a single menstrual cycle, and fecundity is the probability of achieving a live birth within a single cycle.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Etienne van de Valle and Louis Henry (1982). "Fecundity". Multilingual demographic dictionary, English section, second edition. Demopaedia.org, International Union for the Scientific Study of Population. p. 621-1. Retrieved 8 February 2010.
  2. ^ Eugene Grebenik (1959). "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. Archived from the original on 11 February 2010. Retrieved 8 February 2010.
  3. ^ Habbema, J.D.F. (2004-07-01). "Towards less confusing terminology in reproductive medicine: a proposal". Human Reproduction. Oxford University Press (OUP). 19 (7): 1497–1501. doi:10.1093/humrep/deh303. ISSN 1460-2350.
  4. ^ Zegers-Hochschild, Fernando; Adamson, G. David; Dyer, Silke; Racowsky, Catherine; de Mouzon, Jacques; Sokol, Rebecca; Rienzi, Laura; Sunde, Arne; Schmidt, Lone; Cooke, Ian D.; Simpson, Joe Leigh; van der Poel, Sheryl (2017). "The International Glossary on Infertility and Fertility Care, 2017". Fertility and Sterility. Elsevier BV. 108 (3): 393–406. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2017.06.005. ISSN 0015-0282.
  5. ^ Walsh, Benjamin S.; Parratt, Steven R.; Hoffmann, Ary A.; Atkinson, David; Snook, Rhonda R.; Bretman, Amanda; Price, Tom A. R. (2019-01-09). "The Impact of Climate Change on Fertility". Trends in Ecology & Evolution. 34 (3): 249–259. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2018.12.002. ISSN 0169-5347. PMID 30635138. S2CID 58540383.
  6. ^ Berek JS and Novak E. Berek & Novak's gynecology. 14th ed. 2007, Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Pg. 1186