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Geographic and annual variation in reproductive cycles in the Tasmanian spotted snow skink, Niveoscincus ocellatus (Squamata : Scincidae)


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Wapstra, E, Swain, R, Jones, SM and O'Reilly-Wapstra, J ORCID: 0000-0003-4801-4412 1999 , 'Geographic and annual variation in reproductive cycles in the Tasmanian spotted snow skink, Niveoscincus ocellatus (Squamata : Scincidae)' , Australian Journal of Zoology, vol. 47, no. 6 , pp. 539-550 , doi: 10.1071/ZO99038.

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We studied the reproductive cycle of two populations of the spotted snow skink, Niveoscincus ocellatus,
over a three-year period. This species is widespread in Tasmania and its distribution overlaps those of other
species in the genus that show two distinct reproductive strategies: annual reproduction that is completed
within one season, and biennial reproduction in which females carry advanced embryos throughout winter
hibernation. We chose populations representative of the climatic extremes of the species' distribution,
within these areas of overlap. Niveoscincus ocellatus maintains the same basic reproductive strategy in both
populations: summer gestation, primary autumn mating with obligate sperm storage by females, secondary
mating in spring, and predominantly spring vitellogenesis and ovulation. In both populations all females
reproduce annually, suggesting that reproductive frequency is not constrained by availability of energy.
However, we found distinct differences in the timing of ovulation and parturition. Females from our
subalpine site ovulated approximately one month later than those from our warmer, lowland site; parturition
was delayed by the same period so gestation length was unchanged. The delay in ovulation results in
gestation proceeding over the warmest months at the cold site. The annual reproductive cycle of this species
appears to constrain its distribution to the lower altitudinal/climatic range of alpine Niveoscincus species.
There were minor annual differences in the timing of reproductive events at each site, which we attribute to
variation in thermal conditions and the amount of precipitation.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Wapstra, E and Swain, R and Jones, SM and O'Reilly-Wapstra, J
Journal or Publication Title: Australian Journal of Zoology
ISSN: 0004-959X
DOI / ID Number: 10.1071/ZO99038
Additional Information:

Copyright 1999 CSIRO.

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