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Geographical differences in maternal basking behaviour and offspring growth rate in a climatically widespread viviparous reptile


Cadby, CD and Jones, SM and Wapstra, E, Geographical differences in maternal basking behaviour and offspring growth rate in a climatically widespread viviparous reptile, Journal of Experimental Biology, 217, (7) pp. 1175-1179. ISSN 0022-0949 (2014) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2014 The Company of Biologists

DOI: doi:10.1242/jeb.089953


In reptiles, the thermal environment during embryonic development affects offspring phenotypic traits and potentially offspring fitness. In viviparous species, mothers can potentially manipulate the embryonic thermal environment through their basking behaviour and, thus, may be able to manipulate offspring phenotype and increase offspring fitness. One way in which mothers can maximise offspring phenotype (and thus potentially affect offspring fitness) is by fine-tuning their basking behaviour to the environment in order to buffer the embryo from deleterious developmental temperatures. In widespread species, it is unclear whether populations that have evolved under different climatic conditions will exhibit different maternal behaviours and/or thermal effects on offspring phenotype. To test this, we provided extended or reduced basking opportunity to gravid spotted skinks (Niveoscincus ocellatus) and their offspring from two populations at the climatic extremes of the speciesí distribution. Gravid females fine-tuned their basking behaviour to the basking opportunity, which allowed them to buffer their embryos from potentially negative thermal effects. This fine-tuning of female basking behaviour appears to have led to the expression of geographical differences in basking behaviour, with females from the cold alpine regions being more opportunistic in their basking behaviour than females from the warmer regions. However, those differences in maternal behaviour did not preclude the evolution of geographic differences in thermal effects: offspring growth varied between populations, potentially suggesting local adaptation to basking conditions. Our results demonstrate that maternal effects and phenotypic plasticity can play a significant role in allowing species to cope in changing environmental conditions, which is particularly relevant in the context of climate change.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:maternal effect, maternal buffering, climate change, phenotypic plasticity, spotted skink
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Behavioural ecology
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in the environmental sciences
UTAS Author:Cadby, CD (Dr Chloe Bibari)
UTAS Author:Jones, SM (Professor Susan Jones)
UTAS Author:Wapstra, E (Professor Erik Wapstra)
ID Code:90983
Year Published:2014
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (FT110100597)
Web of Science® Times Cited:27
Deposited By:Zoology
Deposited On:2014-05-05
Last Modified:2017-10-31
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