Interactions among thermal parameters determine offspring sex under temperature-dependent sex determination

Daniel A. Warner, Richard Shine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

52 Citations (Scopus)


In many animals, temperatures experienced by developing embryos determine offspring sex (e.g. temperature-dependent sex determination, TSD), but most studies focus strictly on the effects of mean temperature, with little emphasis on the importance of thermal fluctuations. In the jacky dragon (Amphibolurus muricatus), an Australian lizard with TSD, data from nests in the field demonstrate that offspring sex ratios are predictable from thermal fluctuations but not from mean nest temperatures. To clarify this paradox, we incubated eggs in a factorial experiment with two levels of mean temperature and three levels of diel fluctuation. We show that offspring sex is determined by an interaction between these critical thermal parameters. Intriguingly, because these two thermal descriptors shift in opposing directions throughout the incubation season, this interactive effect inhibits seasonal shifts in sex ratio. Hence, our results suggest that TSD can yield offspring sex ratios that resemble those produced under genotypic sex-determining systems. These findings raise important considerations for understanding the diversity of TSD reaction norms, for designing experiments that evaluate the evolutionary significance of TSD, and for predicting sex ratios under past and future climate change scenarios.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)256-265
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1703
Publication statusPublished - 4 Aug 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Amphibolurus muricatus
  • Charnov-Bull model
  • environmental sex determination
  • reaction norm
  • thermal fluctuations
  • thermal mean × variance interaction

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