Metabolic consequences of sex reversal in two lizard species: a test of the like-genotype and like-phenotype hypotheses

Kristoffer H. Wild, John H. Roe, Lisa Schwanz, Essie Rodgers, Duminda S.B. Dissanayake, Arthur Georges, Stephen D. Sarre, Daniel W.A. Noble

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Vertebrate sex is typically determined genetically, but in many ectotherms sex can be determined by genes (genetic sex determination, GSD), temperature (temperature-dependent sex determination, TSD), or interactions between genes and temperature during development. TSD may involve GSD systems with either male or female heterogamety (XX/XY or ZZ/ZW) where temperature overrides chromosomal sex determination to cause a mismatch between genetic sex and phenotypic sex (sex reversal). In these temperature-sensitive lineages, phylogenetic investigations point to recurrent evolutionary shifts between genotypic and temperature-dependent sex determination. These evolutionary transitions in sex determination can occur rapidly if selection favours the reversed sex over the concordant phenotypic sex. To investigate the consequences of sex reversal on offspring phenotypes, we measured two energy-driven traits (metabolism and growth) and 6 month survival in two species of reptile with different patterns of temperature-induced sex reversal. Male sex reversal occurs in Bassiana duperreyi when chromosomal females (female XX) develop male phenotypes (maleSR XX), while female sex reversal occurs in Pogona vitticeps when chromosomal males (male ZZ) develop female phenotypes (femaleSR ZZ). We show metabolism in maleSR XX was like that of male XY; that is, reflective of phenotypic sex and lower than genotypic sex. In contrast, for Pogona vitticeps, femaleSR ZZ metabolism was intermediate between male ZZ and female ZW metabolic rate. For both species, our data indicate that differences in metabolism become more apparent as individuals become larger. Our findings provide some evidence for an energetic advantage from sex reversal in both species but do not exclude energetic processes as a constraint on the distribution of sex reversal in nature.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberjeb245657
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023


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