Developmental success, stability, and plasticity in closely related parthenogenetic and sexual lizards (Heteronotia, Gekkonidae)

Michael Kearney*, Richard Shine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


The developmental trajectory of an organism is influenced by the interaction between its genes and the environment in which it develops. For example, the phenotypic traits of a hatchling reptile can be influenced by the organism's genotype, by incubation temperature, and by genetically coded norms of reaction for thermally labile traits. The evolution of parthenogenesis provides a unique opportunity to explore such effects: a hybrid origin of this trait in vertebrates modifies important aspects of the genotype (e.g., heterozygosity, polyploidy) and may thus impact not only on the phenotype generally, but also on the ways in which incubation temperature affects expression of the phenotype. The scarcity of vertebrate parthenogenesis has been attributed to developmental disruptions, but previous work has rarely considered reaction norms of embryogenesis in this respect. We used closely related sexual and asexual races of the Australian gecko Heteronotia binoei, which include those with multiple origins of parthenogenesis, to explore the ways in which reproductive modes (sexual, asexual), incubation temperatures (24, 27, and 30°C), and the interaction between these factors affected hatchling phenotypes. The hatchling traits we considered included incubation period, incidence of deformities, hatchling survivorship, body size and shape, scalation (including fluctuating asymmetry), locomotor performance, and growth rate. Developmental success was slightly reduced (higher proportion of abnormal offspring) in parthenogenetic lineages although there was no major difference in hatching success. Incubation temperature affected a suite of traits including incubation period, tail length, body mass relative to egg mass, labial scale counts, running speed, growth rate, and hatchling survival. Our data also reveal an interaction between reproductive modes and thermal regimes, with the phenotypic traits of parthenogenetic lizards less sensitive to incubation temperature than was the case for their sexual relatives. Thus, the evolution of asexual reproduction in this species complex has modified both mean hatchling viability and the norms of reaction linking hatchling phenotypes to incubation temperature. Discussions on the reasons why parthenogenetic organisms are scarce in nature should take into account interactive effects such as these; future work could usefully try to tease apart the roles of parthenogenesis, its hybrid origin (and thus effects on ploidy and heterozygosity, etc.), and clonal selection in generating these divergent embryonic responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1560-1572
Number of pages13
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Developmental stability
  • Incubation
  • Lizard
  • Parthenogenesis
  • Phenotypic plasticity
  • Temperature


Dive into the research topics of 'Developmental success, stability, and plasticity in closely related parthenogenetic and sexual lizards (Heteronotia, Gekkonidae)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this