Reptilian endothermy: a field study of thermoregulation by brooding diamond pythons


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    Antarctic Division, Channel Highway, Kingston, Tasmania 7150, Australia

*Address for correspondence


Miniature temperature-sensitive radiotransmitters were surgically implanted into free-ranging adult diamond pythons (Morelia s. spilota), which are medium-sized boid snakes of south-eastern Australia. Four female pythons oviposited during the study, and constructed incubation mounds. These apparently provided excellent insulation, and the snakes maintained high (approx. 31 C) and relatively constant body temperatures throughout the two-month incubation period. They apparently maintained these temperatures primarily by endogenous heat production (shivering thermogenesis), but also basked briefly on most mornings.

Brooding females maintained a body temperature differential above ambient of about 9C, occasionally up to 13C; their temperatures were significantly higher amd less variable than those of non-brooding females or males. The energetic cost of brooding must be high, but these costs may be outweighed by the benefits of rapid embryonic development and high embryonic survivorship.