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Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 177, Issue 5, pp 569–577 | Cite as

Maternal brooding in the children’s python (Antaresia childreni) promotes egg water balance

  • Olivier LourdaisEmail author
  • Ty C. M. Hoffman
  • Dale F. DeNardo
Original Paper

Abstract

Parental care provides considerable benefits to offspring and is widespread among animals, yet it is relatively uncommon among squamate reptiles (e.g., lizards and snakes). However, all pythonine snakes show extended maternal egg brooding with some species being facultatively endothermic. While facultative endothermy provides thermal benefits, the presence of brooding in non-endothermic species suggests other potential benefits of brooding. In this study we experimentally tested the functional significance of maternal brooding relative to water balance in the children’s python, Antaresia childreni, a small species that does not exhibit facultative endothermy. Clutch evaporative water loss (EWL) was positively correlated with clutch mass and was much lower than expected values based on individual eggs. The conglomerate clutch behaved as a single unit with a decreasing surface area to volume ratio as clutch size increased. Maternal brooding had a dramatic impact on evaporation from eggs, reducing and possibly eliminating clutch EWL. In a separate experiment, we found that viability of unattended eggs is highly affected by humidity level, even in the narrow range from 75 to 100% relative humidity at 30.5°C (20–33 mg m−3 absolute humidity). However, the presence of the brooding female ameliorated this sensitivity, as viability of brooded clutches at 75% relative humidity was higher than that of non-brooded eggs at either the same absolute humidity or at near-saturated conditions. Overall, these results demonstrate that brooding behavior strongly promotes egg water balance (and thus egg viability) in children’s pythons.

Keywords

Evaporative water loss Egg Parental care Snake Evaporation Water balance 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank Glenn Walsberg for use of his hygrometry equipment. Emily Taylor provided helpful comments on the manuscript, while Carolyn Christel, Benjamin Reeser, Sabrina Servanty, and Raphaël Jeanson assisted with snake care. Arizona State University (ASU) provided financial support. All experiments were first approved by the ASU Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (protocol #01-617R).

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Olivier Lourdais
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Ty C. M. Hoffman
    • 2
  • Dale F. DeNardo
    • 2
  1. 1.Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé, CNRSVilliers en BoisFrance
  2. 2.School of Life SciencesArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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