Phenotypic variation in an oviparous montane lizard (Bassiana duperreyi): the effects of thermal and hydric incubation environments

Thomas Flatt*, Richard Shine, Pedro A. Borges-Landaez, Sharon J. Downes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)


Recent studies have shown that incubation temperatures can profoundly affect the phenotypes of hatchling lizards, but the effects of hydric incubation environments remain controversial. We examined incubation-induced phenotypic variation in Bassiana duperreyi (Gray, 1938; Sauria: Scincidae), an oviparous montane lizard from south-eastern Australia. We incubated eggs from this species in four laboratory treatments, mimicking cool and moist, cool and dry, warm and moist, and warm and dry natural nest-sites, and assessed several morphological and behavioural traits of lizards after hatching. Incubation temperature influenced a lizard's hatching success, incubation period, tail length and antipredator behaviour, whereas variation in hydric conditions did not engender significant phenotypic variation for most traits. However, moisture affected incubation period slightly differently in males and females, and for a given snout-vent length moisture interacted weakly with temperature to affect lizard body mass. Although incubation conditions can substantially affect phenotypic variation among hatchling lizards, the absence of strong hydric effects suggests that hatchling lizards react less plastically to variation in moisture levels than they do to thermal conditions. Thus, our data do not support the generalization that water availability during embryogenesis is more important than temperature in determining the phenotypes of hatchling reptiles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-350
Number of pages12
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Hatchling
  • Life history
  • Phenotype
  • Phenotypic plasticity
  • Reaction norm
  • Reptiles
  • Sexual dimorphism
  • Temperature
  • Water potential


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