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Are babies better in autumn or spring? The consequences of extending gestation in a biennially reproducing viviparous lizard


Atkins, N and Swain, R and Jones, SM, Are babies better in autumn or spring? The consequences of extending gestation in a biennially reproducing viviparous lizard, Journal of Experimental Zoology, Part A: Ecological Genetics and Physiology, 307A, (7) pp. 397-405. ISSN 1932-5223 (2007) [Refereed Article]

DOI: doi:10.1002/jez.394


Niveoscincus microlepidotus, the southern snow skink, is a biennially reproducing alpine viviparous lizard with an extremely protracted gestation period: embryos are fully developed in autumn, but held over winter so that offspring are born in spring. The obvious benefits for offspring survival of delaying birth until spring have been demonstrated previously. To examine the consequences of deferred parturition for offspring characteristics, we compared neonates obtained in autumn by dissection with neonates born naturally in the spring. Our results demonstrate that deferral of parturition until spring represents a trade-off between key offspring characteristics (spring neonates exhibit lower growth rates, reduced sprint speed after birth, reduced condition and decreased energy reserves) and offspring size [spring neonates are heavier (wet mass) and longer (snout-vent length)]. Furthermore, when females are placed into cold experimental conditions in spring around the time of natural parturition, this species is able to defer parturition for an additional 4 weeks with no significant effect on offspring characteristics. Our results provide further evidence that flexibility in birth date provides a significant advantage to viviparous lizards living in cold climates. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Evolutionary biology
Research Field:Evolutionary biology not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in the environmental sciences
UTAS Author:Atkins, N (Dr Natalia Atkins)
UTAS Author:Swain, R (Dr Roy Swain)
UTAS Author:Jones, SM (Professor Susan Jones)
ID Code:46575
Year Published:2007
Web of Science® Times Cited:5
Deposited By:Zoology
Deposited On:2007-08-01
Last Modified:2011-11-02

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