The effects of incubation temperature and experimental design on heart rates of lizard embryos

Austin C. Hulbert, Timothy S. Mitchell, Joshua M. Hall, Cassia M. Guiffre, Danielle C. Douglas, Daniel A. Warner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Scopus citations


Many studies of phenotypic plasticity alter environmental conditions during embryonic development, yet only measure phenotypes at the neonatal stage (after embryonic development). However, measuring aspects of embryo physiology enhances our understanding of how environmental factors immediately affect embryos, which aids our understanding of developmental plasticity. While current research on reptile developmental plasticity has demonstrated that fluctuating incubation temperatures affect development differently than constant temperatures, most research on embryo physiology is still performed with constant temperature experiments. In this study, we noninvasively measured embryonic heart rates of the brown anole (Anolis sagrei), across ecologically relevant fluctuating temperatures. We incubated eggs under temperatures measured from potential nests in the field and examined how heart rates change through a diel cycle and throughout embryonic development. We also evaluated how experimental design (e.g., repeated vs. single measures designs, constant vs. fluctuating temperatures) and different protocols (e.g., removing eggs from incubators) might influence heart rate. We found that heart rates were correlated with daily temperature and increased through development. Our findings suggest that experimenters have reasonable flexibility in choosing an experimental design to address their questions; however, some aspects of design and protocol can potentially influence estimations of heart rates. Overall, we present the first ecologically relevant measures of anole embryonic heart rates and provide recommendations for experimental designs for future experiments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)466-476
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Ecological and Integrative Physiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • anolis
  • buddy
  • developmental plasticity
  • diel cycle
  • embryo
  • experimental design

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The effects of incubation temperature and experimental design on heart rates of lizard embryos'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this