, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 85-93
Date: 10 Nov 2012

High thermal variance in naturally incubated turtle nests produces faster offspring

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The effects of climate change on populations are complex and difficult to predict, and can result in mismatches between interdependent organisms or between organisms and their environment. Reptiles with temperature-dependent sex determination may be able to compensate for potential skews in offspring sex ratio caused by climate change by selecting cooler (i.e., shadier) nest sites. Although changing nest location may prevent sex ratio skews, it may also affect thermally sensitive performance traits in offspring. I tested righting, sprinting, and swimming performance in hatchling painted turtles (Chrysemys picta), produced by female turtles from five populations across the species’ geographic range, nesting in a common-garden environment. I found that speed of hatchling performance was faster in hatchlings whose mothers originated from warmer climates, and that nests with higher mean daily variation in incubation temperature produced faster hatchlings. These results suggest that the increased temperatures predicted by climate change models could result in hatchling turtles that are faster at sprinting and swimming; however, it is not yet known how these performance measures translate into fitness.