Seasonal shifts along the oviparity–viviparity continuum in a cold-climate lizard population

R. Shine*, E. Wapstra, M. Olsson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Squamate embryos require weeks of high temperature to complete development, with the result that cool climatic areas are dominated by viviparous taxa (in which gravid females can sun-bask to keep embryos warm) rather than oviparous taxa (which rely on warm soil to incubate their eggs). How, then, can some oviparous taxa reproduce successfully in cool climates – especially late in summer, when soil temperatures are falling? Near the northern limit of their distribution (in Sweden), sand lizards (Lacerta agilis) shift tactics seasonally, such that the eggs in late clutches complete development more quickly (when incubated at a standard temperature) than do those of early clutches. That acceleration is achieved by a reduction in egg size and by an increase in the duration of uterine retention of eggs (especially, after cool weather). Our results clarify the ability of oviparous reptiles to reproduce successfully in cool climates and suggest a novel advantage to reptilian viviparity in such conditions: by maintaining high body temperatures, viviparous females may escape the need to reduce offspring size in late-season litters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-13
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • life-history evolution
  • reproductive mode
  • seasonality
  • thermal biology


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