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Temperature fluctuations affect offspring sex but not morphological, behavioral, or immunological traits in the Northern Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta)

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Evolutionary theory predicts that when phenotypic variation arises during development that differently influences the fitness of each sex, selection should favor the maternal ability to match offspring phenotype to the sex that incurs a fitness benefit from that phenotype. In reptiles with temperature-dependent sex determination, the temperatures experienced during incubation can influence numerous phenotypic parameters, including sex. To mimic more naturalistic conditions, this experiment examined how variation in temperature fluctuations affects offspring sex as well as a suite of phenotypic parameters having putative fitness consequences in the Northern Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta (Schneider, 1783)). We also characterized variation in natural nest temperatures, including the daily temperature range, related to the vegetation cover surrounding the nest. We found that temperature fluctuations did not affect hatchling morphology, immune response, or behavior, but did significantly affect offspring sex ratios. Thermal profiles of natural nests were related to the amount of surrounding vegetation. Results suggest that nest-site choice by females could influence the sex of their offspring, but we found no evidence that variation in temperature fluctuations adaptively matches offspring sex and phenotype.

La théorie évolutive prédit que lorsqu’apparaît durant le développement une variation phénotypique qui influence de façon différente chacun des sexes, la sélection devrait favoriser la capacité de la mère d’accorder le phénotype de ses rejetons au sexe qui retire un bénéfice de fitness de ce phénotype. Chez les reptiles dont la détermination du sexe est reliée à la température, les températures durant l’incubation peuvent influencer de nombreuses variables phénotypiques, dont le sexe. Afin de mieux mimer les conditions naturelles, notre expérience examine comment la variation des fluctuations thermiques affecte le sexe des rejetons ainsi qu’une série de variables phénotypiques ayant des conséquences présumées sur la fitness chez la tortue peinte (Chrysemys picta (Schneider, 1783)). Nous avons aussi décrit la variation de la température dans les nids naturels et, en particulier l’entendue thermique journalière, reliée à la couverture végétale aux environs des nids. Les fluctuations de température n’affectent pas la morphologie des nouveau-nés, ni leur réponse immunitaire, ni leur comportement, mais elles ont un effet significatif sur le sexe des rejetons. Les profils thermiques des nids naturels sont reliés à la quantité de végétation environnante. Nos résultats indiquent que le choix du site de nidification par les femelles pourrait influencer le sexe de leurs rejetons, mais il n’y a aucune indication que la variation des fluctuations thermiques associe de manière adaptative le sexe des rejetons et le phénotype.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2010

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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