Ecology

Shape-Shifting Skinks

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Science  27 Feb 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5662, pp. 1259-1261
DOI: 10.1126/science.303.5662.1259d

In egg-laying reptiles, developmental fate depends on the environmental temperature. Higher temperatures influence the rate of development and the size, shape, gender, and behavior of the hatchlings. But during development, environmental temperatures will not be constant. Spring broods will be subjected to gradually increasing temperatures and summer broods to declining temperatures, even though the mean incubation temperature is similar. Shine investigated the effect of seasonal soil temperature gradients on the development of the Australian soil-nesting lizard, the bold-striped cool-skink Bassiana duperreyi. At constant incubation temperatures, the time to hatching was increased. Under falling temperatures, more deformities occurred, which impaired long-distance running speed, especially for the females. The males produced after a falling incubation temperature regime tended to be shorter, with relatively longer tails than the females. Because seasonal shifts in incubation temperature are widespread, sensitivity to such shifts could influence nest site selection, timing of nesting, and possibly the eventual evolution of viviparity. — CA

Funct. Ecol. 18, 43 (2004).

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