Boy or girl? In lizards, egg size matters

Jun 04, 2009

Whether baby lizards will turn out to be male or female is a more complicated question than scientists would have ever guessed, according to a new report published online on June 4th in Current Biology. The study shows that for at least one lizard species, egg size matters.

"We were astonished," said Richard Shine of the University of Sydney. "Our studies on small alpine have revealed another influence on lizard sex: the size of the egg. Big tend to give girls, and small eggs tend to give boys. And if you remove some of the yolk just after the egg is laid, it's likely to switch to being a boy, even if it has female ; and if you inject a bit of extra yolk, the egg will produce a girl, even if it has male sex chromosomes."

In many animals, the sex of offspring depends on specialized sex chromosomes. In mammals and many reptiles, for instance, males carry one X and one Y chromosome, while have a pair of X chromosomes. In contrast, animals such as alligators depend on environmental cues like temperature to set the sex of future generations.

The new findings add to evidence that when it comes to genetic versus environmental factors influencing sex determination, it doesn't have to be an either/or proposition. In fact, Shine and his colleagues earlier found in hatchlings of the alpine-dwelling Bassiana duperreyi that extreme nest temperatures can override the genetically determined sex, in some cases producing XX boys and XY girls. His group had also noticed something else: large lizard eggs were more likely to produce daughters and small eggs to produce sons.

Despite the correlation, Shine said he had assumed that the association was indirect. In fact, his colleague Rajkumar Radder conducted studies in which he removed some yolk from larger eggs, more likely to produce daughters, to confirm that assumption.

"We were confident that there would be no effect on hatchling sex whatsoever," Shine said. "When those baby boy lizards started hatching out, we were gob-smacked."

Shine thinks there will be much more to discover when it comes to lizard sex determination.

"I suspect that the ecology of a species will determine how it makes boys versus girls, and that our yolk-allocation effect is just the tip of a very large iceberg," he said.

Source: Cell Press (news : web)

Explore further: Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How do you know whether you are male or female?

Dec 27, 2007

New research published online this week in the open-access journal PLoS Biology investigates this basic and much-studied question in the fruit fly, and comes to a surprising new conclusion.

Boy or girl? It's in the father's genes

Dec 11, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- A Newcastle University study involving thousands of families is helping prospective parents work out whether they are likely to have sons or daughters.

Children's sex affects parents' marital status

May 23, 2006

Parents with a boy and a girl are more likely to stay married, or get married if they were unmarried when their children were born, than those with two boys or two girls according to new research from ANU economist Dr Andrew ...

Female birds boost up their eggs when hearing sexy song

Jun 08, 2006

In a new study published in the latest issue of Ethology researchers show that female songbirds can alter the size of eggs and possibly the sex of their chicks according to how they perceive their mate’s quality.

Female Birds Boost Up Their Eggs When Hearing Sexy Song

Jul 17, 2006

In a new study published in the latest issue of Ethology researchers show that female songbirds can alter the size of eggs and possibly the sex of their chicks according to how they perceive their mate's quality. The resear ...

Recommended for you

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Orchid named after UC Riverside researcher

Apr 17, 2014

One day about eight years ago, Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, and her father were on a field trip in a mountainous area in central Panama when they stumbled ...

In sex-reversed cave insects, females have the penises

Apr 17, 2014

Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 17 have discovered little-known cave insects with rather novel sex lives. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but re ...

Fear of the cuckoo mafia

Apr 17, 2014

If a restaurant owner fails to pay the protection money demanded of him, he can expect his premises to be trashed. Warnings like these are seldom required, however, as fear of the consequences is enough to ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.