Consequences of maternal yolk testosterone for offspring development and survival: Experimental test in a lizard
Uller T., Astheimer L., Olsson M.
1. Hormone-mediated maternal effects and developmental plasticity are important sources of phenotypic variation, with potential consequences for trait evolution. Yet our understanding of the importance of maternal hormones for offspring fitness in natural populations is very limited, particularly in non-avian species. 2. We experimentally elevated yolk testosterone by injection of a physiological dose into eggs of the lizard Ctenophorus fordi Storr, to investigate its roles in offspring development, growth and survival. 3. Yolk testosterone did not influence incubation period, basic hatchling morphology or survival under natural conditions. However, there was evidence for increased growth in hatchlings from testosterone-treated eggs, suggesting that maternal hormones have potential fitness consequences in natural populations. 4. The positive effect of prenatal testosterone exposure on postnatal growth could represent a taxonomically widespread developmental mechanism that has evolved into an adaptive maternal effect in some taxa, but remains deleterious or selectively neutral in others. 5. A broader taxonomic perspective should increase our understanding of the role of physiological constraints in the evolution of endocrine maternal effects. © 2007 The Authors.