Gravid females of the viviparous scincid lizard Eulamprus heatwolei were maintained in the laboratory, with some females allowed to bask for 8 h/day and others for only 2 h/day. Maternal basking regimes influenced the gestation period, and significantly affected the body shapes, activity levels and running speeds of the offspring born to these females. Neonates from females with lesser basking opportunities were relatively short and fat, were very active, and were relatively fast runners. Effects of the embryos' thermal regime on the young lizards' morphology and running speed were still detectable two months after birth. Thus, much of the morphological and behavioral variation among neonatal reptiles may arise from phenotypically plastic responses to the thermal environments experienced during embryonic development, rather than from heritable genetic differences among individuals. Hence, selection on maternal thermoregulatory behavior may be an important avenue for adaptive modifications to neonatal phenotypes in reptiles.
- Life history
- Phenotypic plasticity