How do thermosensitive species respond to temperature stress in a warming world?

  • Whiteley, Sarah (CI)
  • Crowe-Riddell, Jenna (CoI)
  • Whiting, Martin J. (CoI)
  • Collin, Shaun (CoI)

    Project: Research

    Project Details


    How does our rapidly changing climate impact thermosensitive species, and what capacity do they have to cope with these changes? For many ectothermic species, temperatures experienced during development can trigger changes that impact the individual for the rest of its life, which ultimately influences population-scale processes.

    One such species is the emerging model organism Pogona vitticeps, the central bearded dragon. It is one of the only species known to undergo sex reversal during development from exposure to extreme temperatures. Under high temperatures, genetically male individuals reverse their sex and instead develop as females. These individuals are reproductively viable, and occur across the species’ range.

    We know that sex reversed P. vitticeps females behave differently to their normal male and female counterparts, but we do not understand the molecular and structural neural underpinnings of this behavioral difference. This behavioural study was also limited in its scope, so there is still much to learn about the interplay between temperature, development, and behaviour, and its fitness consequences, in this species. To explore this, we will use a unique combination of genetic sequencing, brain morphology analysis, and behavioral assays to understand how incubation temperature shapes traits that influence an individual during its entire post-hatching life.

    As global temperatures continue to rise, the need to understand the effects of temperature stress on environmentally sensitive species is crucial. Australia has the world’s highest reptile diversity (~1,100 species), and as an ectothermic lineage, all species can be impacted by a rapidly changing climate, and it is unclear whether these species can respond quickly enough to the current rates of climate change.
    Effective start/end date4/07/243/07/27


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