Exploring the evolution of environmental sex determination, especially in reptiles

Authors


Fredric J. Janzen, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology, Iowa State University, 253 Bessey Hall, Ames, IA 50011-1020, USA.
Tel.: 515 294 4230; fax: 515 294 1337;
e-mail: fjanzen@iastate.edu

Abstract

Environmental sex determination has been documented in a variety of organisms for many decades and the adaptive significance of this unusual sex-determining mechanism has been clarified empirically in most cases. In contrast, temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD) in amniote vertebrates, first noted 40 years ago in a lizard, has defied a general satisfactory evolutionary explanation despite considerable research effort. After briefly reviewing relevant theory and prior empirical work, we draw attention to recent comparative analyses that illuminate the evolutionary history of TSD in amniote vertebrates and point to clear avenues for future research on this challenging topic. To that end, we then highlight the latest empirical findings in lizards and turtles, as well as promising experimental results from a model organism, that portend an exciting future of progress in finally elucidating the evolutionary cause(s) and significance of TSD.

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