Countergradient Variation in Reptiles: Thermal Sensitivity of Developmental and Metabolic Rates Across Locally Adapted Populations

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Environmental temperature is a key driver of variation in developmental physiological rates in reptiles. Cooler temperatures extend development time and can increase the amount of energy required to achieve hatching success, which can pose fitness consequences later in life. Yet, for locally-adapted populations, genetic variation can oppose environmental variation across ecological gradients, known as countergradient variation (CnGV). Biologists often seek to understand the presence of phenotypic variation, yet the absence of such variation across environmental gradients can also reveal insights into the mechanisms underlying local adaptation. While evidence for genetic variation opposing environmental variation in physiological rates has been summarized in other taxa, the generality of CnGV variation in reptiles is yet unknown. Here I present a summary of studies measuring development time and metabolic rates in locally-adapted populations across thermal clines for 15 species of reptiles across 8 families. CnGV in development time is found to be common, while no clear pattern emerges for the thermal sensitivity of metabolic rates across locally-adapted populations. CnGV in development time may be an adaptive response in order to decrease the costly development in cool climates, however, empirical work is needed to disentangle plastic from genetic responses, and to uncover potentially general mechanisms of local thermal adaptation in reptiles.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Evolutionary Biology


  • adaptation, climate, cogradient, embryo, incubation, maternal investment, temperature
Original languageEnglish
Article number547
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Jun 18
Publication categoryResearch