Evidence for atypical nest overwintering by hatchling lizards, Heloderma suspectum

Dale Denardo, Karla T. Moeller, Mark Seward, Roger Repp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The timing of reproductive events (e.g. oviposition and hatching) to coincide with favourable seasonal conditions is critical for successful reproduction. However, developmental time may not match the duration between the optimal time for oviposition and the optimal time for hatchling survival. Thus, strategies that alter the time between oviposition and hatchling emergence can be highly advantageous. Arrested development and the resulting extension of the duration between oviposition and hatching has been widely documented across oviparous amniotes, but nest overwintering by hatchlings has only been documented in aquatic chelonians that live where winters are quite cold. Herein, we present a compilation of evidence regarding reproductive phenology by hatchlings of the Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum), a lizard inhabiting the Sonoran Desert of North America. Our data demonstrate that (i) Gila monster hatchlings from eggs oviposited in July do not emerge from their nests until late spring or summer of the following year, yet (ii) Gila monster eggs artificially incubated at fieldrelevant temperatures hatch in 4–5 months. Furthermore, we describe a fortuitous excavation of a hatching Gila monster nest in late October, which coincides with the artificial incubation results. Together, these results provide strong support for the existence of overwintering in the nest by a lizard, and suggest that this reproductive strategy should be explored in a broader array of taxa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20180632
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1879
StatePublished - May 16 2018


  • Development
  • Diapause
  • Hatching
  • Overwintering
  • Reproduction
  • Reptile

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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