Effects of constant incubation regimes on eggs and hatchlings of the egg-laying skink, Oligosoma suteri
The conditions under which reptilian eggs are incubated affect survival probability and physiological attributes of the progeny. The egg-laying skink, Oligosoma suteri, is the only endemic oviparous lizard in New Zealand. No controlled laboratory incubation had previously been undertaken, and thus no information was available on the requirements for successful captive incubation. I studied the effects of incubation regime on the eggs and hatchlings of O. suteri to four months of age. Oligosoma suteri eggs (n = 174) were randomly distributed among three constant incubation temperatures (18°C, 22°C and 26°C) and two water potentials (-120 kPa and -270 kPa). Hatching success and hatchling survival were greatest at 22°C and 26°C, with hatchlings from 18°C incubation suffering from physical abnormalities. Incubation regime and maternal influence did not affect sex of individuals, with equal sex ratios occurring from each incubation treatment. Hatchlings from the 22°C and -120 kPa incubation treatments were larger, for most measurements, and warmer incubation temperatures resulted in increased growth rates. Juveniles from 22°C and 26°C and individuals with greater mass per unit length (condition index) sprinted faster over 0.25 m. Sprint speed was positively correlated with ambient temperature. At four months of age sprint speed decreased in 18°C individuals and individuals incubated at 26°C and -270 kPa compared to their performance at one month. The results suggest that the most successful captive incubation regime for O. suteri is 22°C and -120 kPa. This study also shows that temperature-dependent sex determination does not occur in O. suteri, but that fitness traits are influenced by incubation temperature.