Embryonic water uptake during pregnancy is stage- and fecundity-dependent in the snake Vipera aspis

Olivier Lourdais, Sophie Lorioux, Andréaz Dupoué, Christian Wright, Dale Denardo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Water is a crucial resource that can profoundly impact the biology of terrestrial organisms. Early life stages are particularly sensitive to hydric constraints because water uptake is an important component of embryonic development. While amniotic eggs constitute a key innovation to terrestrial life, many vertebrates are viviparous wherein the mother must be the source of water for her developing embryos. Since most viviparous squamates are lecithotrophic (i.e., energy is supplied to the offspring as yolk deposited into pre-ovulated follicles), water is the predominant resource allocated from the mother to the offspring during development. Contrary to energy that can be stored (e.g., as fat reserves), water typically cannot be acquired in advance. Therefore, the embryos' need for water can impose significant constraints on the pregnant female. We detailed water flux during pregnancy in a viviparous snake, the aspic viper (Vipera aspis). We found that embryonic water uptake occurred mostly during the second half of pregnancy-a period dominated by somatic growth. We also found that, somewhat unexpectedly, changes in female plasma osmolality were negatively related to fecundity. This latter result suggests that water consumption by the female is especially important for large litter sizes, and thus may suggest an important sensitivity of reproductive females to environmental water availability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)102-106
Number of pages5
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology -Part A : Molecular and Integrative Physiology
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015


  • Fecundity
  • Osmolality
  • Pregnancy
  • Viviparity
  • Water balance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology


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