1. In many reptile species, females oviposit communally (i.e. many clutches are laid within the same nest). This behaviour might result from constraint (scarcity of nest-sites offering suitable incubation conditions) or adaptation (direct fitness benefits accruing from the proximity of other eggs). 2. To test between these alternatives, we gathered field and laboratory data on montane scincid lizards Bassiana duperreyi from south-eastern Australia. Our data support the adaptationist hypothesis. 3. In the field, communal vs. solitary clutches were laid in similar sites, and the relative frequency of communal nesting was not predictable from nest-site availability. Thermal regimes for incubation did not differ between communal vs. solitary nests, nor between eggs at the core vs. periphery of a communal nest. In the laboratory, females selectively oviposited beside existing eggs rather than in otherwise identical potential nesting sites. 4. From cycling-temperature incubation in the laboratory, eggs incubated within a cluster of other eggs took up less water, but produced hatchlings that were larger and faster-running than were hatchlings from eggs incubated alone. 5. Hydric modifications of incubation conditions within a cluster of tightly packed eggs thus may provide a direct fitness benefit to communal oviposition.
- Bassiana duperreyi