The ends of a continuum: genetic and temperature-dependent sex determination in reptiles

Bioessays. 2004 Jun;26(6):639-45. doi: 10.1002/bies.20050.


Two prevailing paradigms explain the diversity of sex-determining modes in reptiles. Many researchers, particularly those who study reptiles, consider genetic and environmental sex-determining mechanisms to be fundamentally different, and that one can be demonstrated experimentally to the exclusion of the other. Other researchers, principally those who take a broader taxonomic perspective, argue that no clear boundaries exist between them. Indeed, we argue that genetic and environmental sex determination in reptiles should be seen as a continuum of states represented by species whose sex is determined primarily by genotype, species where genetic and environmental mechanisms coexist and interact in lesser or greater measure to bring about sex phenotypes, and species where sex is determined primarily by environment. To do otherwise limits the scope of investigations into the transition between the two and reduces opportunities to use studies of reptiles to advance understanding of vertebrate sex determination generally.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Temperature
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Reptiles / physiology*
  • Sex Determination Processes*
  • Sex Differentiation
  • Temperature