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Effects of regional hypoxia and incubation temperature on growth, differentiation, heart mass, and oxygen consumption in embryos of the leopard gecko (Eublepharis macularius)

Parker, Scott L., Dimkovikj, Valerie H.
Comparative biochemistry and physiology 2019 v.227 pp. 51-59
Eublepharis macularius, eggs, gas exchange, heart, hypoxia, oxygen, oxygen consumption, paraffin wax, plasticity, reptiles, surface area, temperature
Oviparous reptile embryos must tolerate fluctuations in oxygen availability and incubation temperature during development. In this study, regional hypoxia was simulated by painting eggs of Eublepharis macularius with melted paraffin wax to decrease the available surface area for gas exchange by approximately 80%. Experimental and control eggs were incubated at either 28 or 34 °C and embryo mass, stage, heart mass, relative heart mass, and oxygen consumption (V̇O2) were measured at 15 and 30 days of incubation. Embryo mass from the regional hypoxia treatment was reduced by about 50% at day 15 and by about 30% at day 30 of incubation, independent of incubation temperature compared to controls. Embryo stage from the regional hypoxia treatment was reduced by about 2 stages at day 15 independent of incubation temperature but there was no effect of hypoxia treatment at day 30. Absolute heart mass was reduced by about 60% in regional hypoxia embryos sampled at day 15 while relative heart mass was increased by about 30% in regional hypoxic embryos at day 30 compared to controls, suggesting that heart mass is conserved at the expense of somatic growth. Embryo V̇O2 was affected by incubation temperature at both 15 and 30 days of incubation but not by regional hypoxia treatment. These results indicate that embryos of E. macularius possess plasticity in their capacity to respond to reduction in oxygen availability during incubation, and are able to survive and continue developing when gas exchange surface area is severely limited.