Most studies on egg incubation in reptiles have relied on constant temperature incubation in the laboratory rather than on simulations of thermal regimes in natural nests. The thermal effects on embryos in constant-temperature studies often do not realistically reflect what occurs in nature. Recent studies have increasingly recognized the importance of simulating natural nest temperatures rather than applying constant-temperature regimes. We incubated Bungarus multicintus eggs under three constant and one fluctuating-temperature regimes to evaluate the effects of constant versus fluctuating incubation temperatures on hatching success and hatchling phenotypes. Hatching success did not differ among the four treatments, and incubation temperature did not affect the sexual phenotype of hatchlings. Incubation length decreased as incubation temperature increased, but eggs incubated at fluctuating temperatures did not differ from eggs incubated at constant temperatures with approximately the same mean in incubation length. Of the hatchling phenotypes examined, residual yolk, fat bodies and locomotor performance were more likely affected by incubation temperature. The maximal locomotor speed was fastest in the fluctuating-temperature and 30°C treatments and slowest in the 24°C treatment, with the 27°C treatment in between. The maximal locomotor length was longest in the fluctuating-temperature treatment and shortest in the 24°C and 27°C treatments, with the 30°C treatment in between. Our results show that fluctuating incubation temperatures do not influence hatching success and hatchling size and morphology any differently than constant temperatures with approximately the same mean, but have a positive effect on locomotor performance of hatchlings.
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