Thermal acclimation of heart rates in reptilian embryos

PLoS One. 2010 Dec 14;5(12):e15308. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0015308.


In many reptiles, the thermal regimes experienced by eggs in natural nests vary as a function of ambient weather and location, and this variation has important impacts on patterns of embryonic development. Recent advances in non-invasive measurement of embryonic heart rates allow us to answer a long-standing puzzle in reptilian developmental biology: Do the metabolic and developmental rates of embryos acclimate to local incubation regimes, as occurs for metabolic acclimation by post-hatching reptiles? Based on a strong correlation between embryonic heart rate and oxygen consumption, we used heart rates as a measure of metabolic rate. We demonstrate acclimation of heart rates relative to temperature in embryos of one turtle, one snake and one lizard species that oviposit in relatively deep nests, but found no acclimation in another lizard species that uses shallow (and hence, highly thermally variable) nests. Embryonic thermal acclimation thus is widespread, but not ubiquitous, within reptiles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Developmental Biology / methods
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / physiology
  • Embryonic Development / physiology
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Heart Rate*
  • Hot Temperature
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Reptiles / embryology*
  • Temperature
  • Turtles / embryology