Thermal acclimation of heart rates in reptilian embryos

Wei-Guo Du, Hua Ye, Bo Zhao, Daniel A. Warner, Richard Shine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)
15 Downloads (Pure)


In many reptiles, the thermal regimes experienced by eggs in natural nests vary as a function of ambient weather and location, and this variation has important impacts on patterns of embryonic development. Recent advances in non-invasive measurement of embryonic heart rates allow us to answer a long-standing puzzle in reptilian developmental biology: Do the metabolic and developmental rates of embryos acclimate to local incubation regimes, as occurs for metabolic acclimation by post-hatching reptiles? Based on a strong correlation between embryonic heart rate and oxygen consumption, we used heart rates as a measure of metabolic rate. We demonstrate acclimation of heart rates relative to temperature in embryos of one turtle, one snake and one lizard species that oviposit in relatively deep nests, but found no acclimation in another lizard species that uses shallow (and hence, highly thermally variable) nests. Embryonic thermal acclimation thus is widespread, but not ubiquitous, within reptiles.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere15308
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2010. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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