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Am Nat. 2014 Mar;183(3):445-51. doi: 10.1086/675065. Epub 2014 Feb 5.

Thermoregulatory behavior is widespread in the embryos of reptiles and birds.

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Key Laboratory of Animal Ecology and Conservation Biology, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China.


Recent studies have demonstrated that thermoregulatory behavior occurs not only in posthatching turtles but also in turtles prior to hatching. Does thermoregulatory behavior also occur in the embryos of other reptile and bird species? Our experiments show that such behavior is widespread but not universal in reptile and bird embryos. We recorded repositioning within the egg, in response to thermal gradients, in the embryos of three species of snakes (Xenochrophis piscator, Elaphe bimaculata, and Zaocys dhumnades), two turtles (Chelydra serpentina and Ocadia sinensis), one crocodile (Alligator sinensis), and four birds (Coturnix coturnix, Gallus gallus domesticus, Columba livia domestica, and Anas platyrhynchos domestica). However, we detected no significant thermoregulation by the embryos of two lizard species (Takydromus septentrionalis and Phrynocephalus frontalis). Overall, embryonic thermoregulatory behavior is widespread in reptile as well as bird species but may be unimportant in the small eggs laid by most lizards.

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