Lizard embryos prioritize posthatching energy reserves over increased hatchling body size during development

Kaitlyn M. Murphy*, Rajkumar S. Radder, Richard Shine, Daniel A. Warner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Embryonic development in oviparous organisms is fueled by maternally allocated yolk, and many organisms hatch before that energy store is used completely; the resultant leftover (re-sidual) yolk is internalized and may support early posthatching life. However, embryos that use most, or all, of their yolk supply before hatching should hatch at a larger size than those that do not exhaust those energy reserves, which could also have benefits for posthatching growth and survival. To examine the trade-off between residual yolk and offspring size, we experimentally reduced yolk quantity at oviposition in lizard eggs (Amphibolurus muricatus) and then quantified offspring size and the amount of internalized residual yolk. This design enabled us to determine whether embryos (1) exhaust yolk supply during development (thereby maximizing neonatal size) or (2) reduce neonatal size by retaining yolk reserves at hatching. Our data support the latter scenario. Eggs from the yolk-reduced treatment produced smaller offspring with a proportion of residual yolk similar to that of offspring from unmanipulated eggs, suggesting that the fitness benefits of posthatching energy stores outweigh those of larger neonatal size.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-346
Number of pages8
JournalPhysiological and Biochemical Zoology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020


  • Amphibolurus muricatus
  • Embryonic yolk
  • Jacky dragon
  • Residual yolk
  • Trade-offs
  • Yolk partitioning

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