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Female Eastern Hog-nosed Snakes (Heterodon platirhinos) choose nest sites that produce offspring with phenotypes likely to improve fitness

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Abstract:

Nest-site selection is an important behaviour in oviparous reptiles because incubation conditions affect offspring phenotype, with favourable conditions leading to higher offspring fitness. We aimed to identify the habitat characteristics involved in nest-site selection in Eastern Hog-nosed Snakes (Heterodon platirhinos Latreille, 1801) and to determine whether females select nest sites that result in offspring with phenotypes likely to improve fitness. We compared the habitat characteristics and temperature profiles of 21 nests with 21 randomly selected sites. Eastern Hog-nosed Snakes selected open, grassy sites with less herbs and shrubs than random sites, and nests were significantly warmer than random sites during the 2 years of the study. In the second year of the study, we incubated 215 eggs from eight nests in a split-clutch design at mean nest (24 °C) and random site (22 °C) temperatures approximating those of the first year of the study. Eggs incubated at 24 °C resulted in neonates that hatched earlier, had fewer scale anomalies, were larger, and swam faster than neonates from eggs incubated at 22 °C. Our results indicate that Eastern Hog-nosed Snakes select nest sites that lead to offspring with phenotypes likely to improve fitness.

Keywords: Eastern Hog-nosed Snake; Heterodon platirhinos; choix du site de nidification; couleuvre à nez plat; incubation; nest-site selection; oviparity; oviparité; schéma de nichée fractionnée; split-clutch design

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1139/z2012-091

Publication date: September 7, 2012

More about this publication?
  • 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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