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J Exp Biol. 2012 Apr 1;215(Pt 7):1117-27. doi: 10.1242/jeb065359.

Effects of night-time warming on temperate ectotherm reproduction: potential fitness benefits of climate change for side-blotched lizards.

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Department of Biology, Whitman College, Walla Walla, WA 99362, USA.


Temperate ectotherms, especially those at higher latitudes, are expected to benefit from climate warming, but few data yet exist to verify this prediction. Furthermore, most previous studies on the effects of climate change utilized a model of uniform annual change, which assumes that temperature increases are symmetric on diurnal or seasonal time scales. In this study, we simulated observed trends in the asymmetric alteration of diurnal temperature range by increasing night-time temperatures experienced by female lizards during their ovarian cycle as well as by the resulting eggs during their incubation. We found that higher night-time temperatures during the ovarian cycle increased the probability of reproductive success and decreased the duration of the reproductive cycle, but did not affect embryo stage or size at oviposition, clutch size, egg mass or relative clutch mass. Furthermore, higher incubation temperatures increased hatchling size and decreased incubation period but had no effect on incubation success. Subsequent hatchlings were more likely to survive winter if they hatched earlier, though our sample size of hatchlings was relatively small. These findings indicate that higher night-time temperatures mainly affect rate processes and that certain aspects of life history are less directly temperature dependent. As our findings confirm that climate warming is likely to increase the rate of development as well as advance reproductive phenology, we predict that warmer nights during the breeding season will increase reproductive output as well as subsequent survival in many temperate ectotherms, both of which should have positive fitness effects.

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