Viviparity and Temperature-Dependent Sex Determination Academic Article uri icon


  • Although temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD) has been a 'hot topic' for well over 30 years, the discovery of TSD in viviparous taxa is recent. Viviparity and TSD was regarded unlikely on theoretical grounds as viviparity allows for high stable developmental temperatures through maternal basking. However, pregnant squamates of many species choose different body temperatures from non-pregnant females and males, and we now know that differential temperature selection by viviparous species with TSD allows for the production of sons or daughters. Three species of squamate reptiles (all are skinks) are now know to exhibit TSD. The physiological mechanism by which viviparous reptiles control the sex of their offspring is not understood, but exposure to different operational sex ratios in the adult population is a factor in some species. The functional role of sex steroid hormones in egg yolk and how the hormones are manipulated in utero is still an area requiring detailed investigation. Fast maturing squamate reptiles provide an excellent, but as yet underutilized, model system for studying the adaptive significance of TSD, and the occurrence of TSD in viviparous species requires substantially more work on a phylogenetically diverse range of species.

publication date

  • 2010