Most oviparous squamate reptiles lay their eggs when embryos have completed less than one-third of development, with the remaining two-thirds spent in an external nest. Even when females facultatively retain eggs in dry or cold conditions, such retention generally causes only a minor (<10%) decrease in subsequent incubation periods. In contrast, we found that female sand lizards (Lacerta agilis) from an experimentally founded field population (established ca. 20 years ago on the southwest coast of Sweden) exhibited wide variation in incubation periods even when the eggs were kept at standard (25°C) conditions. Females that retained eggs in utero for longer based on the delay between capture and oviposition produced eggs that hatched sooner. In the extreme case, eggs hatched after only 55% of the “normal” incubation period. Although the proximate mechanisms underlying this flexibility remain unclear, our results from this first full field season at the new study site show that females within a single cold-climate population of lizards can span a substantial proportion of the continuum from “normal” oviparity to viviparity.
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- developmental plasticity
- reproductive mode