Mechanisms of reproductive allocation as drivers of developmental plasticity in reptiles Academic Article uri icon


  • Developmental plasticity in offspring phenotype occurs as a result of the environmental conditions embryos experience during development. The nutritional environment provided to a fetus is an important source of developmental plasticity. Reptiles are a particularly interesting system to study this plasticity because of their varied routes of maternal nutrient allocation to reproduction. Most reptiles provide their offspring with all or most of the nutrients they require in egg yolk (lecithotrophy) while viviparous reptiles also provide their offspring with nutrients via a placenta (placentotrophy). We review the ways in which both lecithotrophy and placentotrophy can lead to differences in the nutrients embryonic reptiles receive, and discuss how these differences lead to developmental plasticity in offspring phenotype. We finish by reviewing the ecological and conservation consequences of nutritional-driven developmental plasticity in reptiles. If nutritional-driven developmental plasticity has fitness consequences, then understanding the basis of this plasticity has exciting potential to identify how reptile recruitment is affected by environmental changes in food supply. Such knowledge is critical to our ability to protect taxa threatened by environmental change.

publication date

  • 2018