Thermal and reproductive biology of high and low elevation populations of the lizard Sceloporus scalaris: implications for the evolution of viviparity

  • Mathies T
  • Andrews R
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Viviparity in squamate reptiles is presumed to evolve in cold climates by selection for increasingly longer periods of egg retention. Longer periods of egg retention may require modifications to other reproductive features associated with the evolution of viviparity, including a reduction in eggshell thickness and clutch size. Field studies on the thermal and reproductive biology of high (HE) and low (LE) elevation populations of the oviparous lizard, Sceloporus scalaris, support these expectations. Both day and night-time temperatures at the HE site were considerably cooler than at the LE site, and the activity period was 2 h shorter at the HE than at the LE site. The median body temperature of active HE females was 2˚C lower than that of LE females. HE females initiated reproduction earlier in the spring than LE females, apparently in order to compensate for relatively low temperatures during gestation. HE females retained eggs for about 20 days longer than LE females, which was reflected by differences in the degree of embryonic development at the time of oviposition (stages 35.5-37.0 versus stages 31.0-33.5, respectively). These results support the hypotheses that evolution of viviparity is a gradual process, and is favored in cold climates. Females in the HE population exhibited other traits consistent with presumed intermediate stages in the evolution of viviparity; mean eggshell thickness of HE eggs (19.3 μm) was significantly thinner than that of LE eggs (26.6 μm) and the size-adjusted clutch sizes of HE females (9.4) were smaller than those of LE females (11.2).

Author-supplied keywords

  • Egg retention
  • Life history evolution
  • Sceloporus scalaris
  • Thermoregulation
  • Viviparity

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  • T. Mathies

  • R. M. Andrews

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