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Thermal spikes from the urban heat island increase mortality and alter physiology of lizard embryos


Hall, Joshua M.
Warner, Daniel A.


Effects of global change (i.e. urbanization, climate change) on adult organisms are readily used to predict the persistence of populations. However, effects on embryo survival and patterns of development are less studied, even though embryos are particularly sensitive to abiotic conditions that are altered by global change (e.g. temperature). In reptiles, relatively warm incubation temperatures increase developmental rate and often enhance fitness-relevant phenotypes, but extremely high temperatures cause death. Due to the urban heat island effect, human-altered habitats (i.e. cities) potentially create unusually warm nest conditions that differ from adjacent natural areas in both mean and extreme temperatures. Such vanation may exert selection pressures on embryos. To address this, we measured soil temperatures in places where the Puerto Rican crested anole lizard (Anolis cristatellus) nests in both city and forest habitats. We bred anoles in the laboratory and subjected their eggs to five incubation treatments that mimicked temperature regimes from the field, three of which included brief exposure to extremely high temperatures (i.e. thermal spikes) measured in the city. We monitored growth and survival of hatchlings in the laboratory for 3 months and found that warmer, city temperatures increase developmental rate, but brief, thermal spikes reduce survival. Hatchling growth and survival were unaffected by incubation treatment. The urban landscape can potentially create selection pressures that influence organisms at early (e.g. embryo) and late life stages. Thus, research aimed at quantifying the impacts of urbanization on wildlife populations must include multiple life stages to gain a comprehensive understanding of this important aspect of global change.