Extreme plasticity in reproductive biology of an oviparous lizard

Mats Olsson*, Lisa Loeb, Willow Lindsay, Erik Wapstra, Luisa Fitzpatrick, Richard Shine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/opinion

2 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6384-6389
Number of pages6
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • developmental plasticity
  • incubation
  • Lacertidae
  • reproductive mode

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    Olsson, M., Loeb, L., Lindsay, W., Wapstra, E., Fitzpatrick, L., & Shine, R. (2018). Extreme plasticity in reproductive biology of an oviparous lizard. Ecology and Evolution, 8(13), 6384-6389. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.4247