Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 178, Issue 3, pp 421–428 | Cite as

Aggregation protects flexible-shelled reptile eggs from severe hydric stress

  • Adolfo MarcoEmail author
  • Carmen Díaz-Paniagua
Original Paper


Many reptiles lay eggs with flexible shells that can progressively lose water until lethal dehydration under dry soil conditions. The number of eggs that develop together may influence the water exchange in the nest. We hypothesise that egg aggregation could reduce water lost under dry conditions. We exposed aggregated and isolated eggs to severe hydric stress followed by a period of rehydration. Hydric stress caused a general loss of water in common chameleon eggs. Initial egg mass did not affect survival but eggs that had lost more water had higher mortality and produced smaller hatchlings. Mass loss was higher and even lethal for isolated Chamaeleo chameleon eggs. However, aggregated eggs lost less water and most survived this period. After hydric stress, all surviving eggs gained mass via water absorption, and aggregation negatively affected water uptake. Isolated eggs hatched at smaller sizes than aggregated eggs. Aggregation also favoured hatching synchrony. Large clutches may favour hatching success of terrestrial flexible-shelled eggs incubated under severe drought conditions.


Chameleons Eggs Incubation Water potential Hatching synchrony 



Thanks to Ana Andreu, Juan José Gómez, Antonio Conejo and Wouter de Vries for their help and to Robin Andrews for editorial assistance. The Centro de Recuperación de Especies Amenazadas de El Puerto de Santa María allowed us to use their facilities to incubate chameleon eggs under natural conditions. The Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology funded this study (CICYT PB97-1162). The study was conducted with the permission of the Consejería de Medio Ambiente, Junta de Andalucía, Spain and complies with current Spanish legislation.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Doñana Biological StationSpanish Council for Scientific Research, CSICSevilleSpain

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