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Thermal Spikes Caused by the Urban Heat Island Effect Result in Differential Egg Survival of a Non-native Lizard (Anolis cristatellus)


Hall, Joshua M
Warner, Daniel A


Embryonic development in ectotherms is very sensitive to abiotic nest conditions. In reptiles, high incubation temperatures often result in relatively short incubation periods and large hatching size, but extremely high temperatures can result in cardiac arrest and death. Human altered habitats, which potentially create novel thermal conditions in the soil due to the urban heat island effect, may therefore create new selection pressures for developing embryos. The urban heat island effect can increase temperatures in cities as much as 12° C, and our preliminary data suggests that soil temperatures differ markedly between urban and natural areas in locations where reptiles deposit eggs. We measured the temperatures of potential nest sites of the Puerto Rican Crested Anole (Anolis cristatellus) in both urban and natural areas of Miami-Dade county where this lizard and several other anole species are naturalized. We bred crested anoles in the lab and subjected their eggs to 5 incubation treatments that mimic potential temperature regimes from our field data, three of which included a thermal spike 1/4 of the way through embryonic development. Preliminary results suggest that thermal spikes increase metabolism and reduce egg survival and that each are a function of the magnitude of the spike. These results suggest that urban environments create novel selection pressures that potentially result in embryonic adaptation to novel temperature regimes or in novel nest-site selection strategies by females.