Is increased maternal basking an adaptation or a pre-adaptation to viviparity in lizards?

Richard Shine*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


Pregnant females modify their thermoregulatory behaviour in many species of viviparous (live-bearing) reptiles, typically maintaining higher and more stable body temperatures at this time. Such modifications often have been interpreted as adaptations to viviparity, functioning to accelerate embryonic development and/or modify phenotypic traits of hatchlings. An alternative possibility is that similar maternal thermophily may be widespread also in oviparous species and if so, would be a pre-adaptation (rather than an adaptation) to viviparity. Because eggs are retained in utero for a significant proportion of development even in oviparous reptiles, maternal thermophily might confer similar advantages in oviparous as in viviparous taxa. Experimental trials on montane oviparous scincid lizards (Bassiana duperreyi) support the pre-adaptation hypothesis. First, captive females (both reproductive and non-reproductive) selected higher temperatures than males. Second, experimentally imposing thermal regimes on pregnant females significantly affected their oviposition dates and the phenotypic traits (body shape, running speed) of their hatchlings. Thus, as for many other behavioural correlates of pregnancy in viviparous reptiles, maternal thermophily likely may have already been present in the ancestral oviparous taxa that gave rise to present-day viviparous forms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)524-535
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Comparative Experimental Biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2006
Externally publishedYes


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