Nesting lizards (Bassiana duperreyi) compensate partly, but not completely, for climate change


  • Present address: Department of Biology, University of Central Oklahoma, 100 N. University Drive, Edmond, Oklahoma 73034 USA.
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Species in which ambient temperatures directly determine offspring sex may be at particular risk as global climates change. Whether or not climate change affects sex ratio depends upon the effectiveness of buffering mechanisms that link ambient regimes to actual nest temperatures. For example, females may simply lay nests earlier in the season, or in more shaded areas, such that incubation thermal regimes are unchanged despite massive ambient fluctuation. Based on eight years of monitoring nests over a 10-year period in the field at an alpine site in southeastern Australia, we show that, even though lizards (Bassiana duperreyi, Scincidae) have adjusted both nest depth and seasonal timing of oviposition in response to rising ambient temperatures, they have been unable to compensate entirely for climate change. That inability stems from the fact that the seasonal progression of soil temperatures, and thus, the degree to which thermal regimes at the time of laying predict subsequent conditions during incubation, also has shifted with climate change. As a result, mean incubation temperatures in natural nests now have crossed the thermal threshold at which incubation temperature directly affects offspring sex in this population.