Eggs inside an underground nest have limited access to information about above-ground conditions that might affect the survival of emerging hatchlings. Our measurements of heart rates of embryos inside the intact eggs of montane lizards (Bassiana duperreyi, Scincidae) show that low temperatures induce torpor in fullterm embryos, but do not do so during earlier embryogenesis or later, post-hatching. Because above-ground conditions affect soil temperatures, this stage-dependent torpor effectively restricts hatching to periods of high ambient temperatures above ground. Torpor thus can function not only to synchronize activity with suitable environmental conditions during post-hatching life (as reported for many species), but also can occur in embryos, to synchronize hatching with above-ground conditions that facilitate successful emergence from the nest.
- metabolic rate
- heart rate