Population divergence in maternal investment and embryo energy use and allocation suggests adaptive responses to cool climates

A. K. Pettersen, S. Ruuskanen, A. Nord, J. F. Nilsson, M. R. Miñano, L. J. Fitzpatrick, G. M. While, T. Uller

Forskningsoutput: TidskriftsbidragArtikel i vetenskaplig tidskriftPeer review


The thermal sensitivity of early life stages can play a fundamental role in constraining species distributions. For egg-laying ectotherms, cool temperatures often extend development time and exacerbate developmental energy cost. Despite these costs, egg laying is still observed at high latitudes and altitudes. How embryos overcome the developmental constraints posed by cool climates is crucial knowledge for explaining the persistence of oviparous species in such environments and for understanding thermal adaptation more broadly. Here, we studied maternal investment and embryo energy use and allocation in wall lizards spanning altitudinal regions, as potential mechanisms that enable successful development to hatching in cool climates. Specifically, we compared population-level differences in (1) investment from mothers (egg mass, embryo retention and thyroid yolk hormone concentration), (2) embryo energy expenditure during development, and (3) embryo energy allocation from yolk towards tissue. We found evidence that energy expenditure was greater under cool compared with warm incubation temperatures. Females from relatively cool regions did not compensate for this energetic cost of development by producing larger eggs or increasing thyroid hormone concentration in yolk. Instead, embryos from the high-altitude region used less energy to complete development, that is, they developed faster without a concomitant increase in metabolic rate, compared with those from the low-altitude region. Embryos from high altitudes also allocated relatively more energy towards tissue production, hatching with lower residual yolk: tissue ratios than low-altitude region embryos. These results are consistent with local adaptation to cool climate and suggest that this is underpinned by mechanisms that regulate embryonic utilisation of yolk reserves and its allocation towards tissue, rather than shifts in maternal investment of yolk content or composition.

Sidor (från-till)1771-1785
Antal sidor15
TidskriftJournal of Animal Ecology
StatusPublished - 2023 sep.

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ)

  • Ekologi
  • Zoologi


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