Maternal corticosterone increases thermal sensitivity of heart rate in lizard embryos

Dustin A.S. Owen, Michael J. Sheriff, Jennifer J. Heppner, Hannah Gerke, David C. Ensminger, Kirsty J. MacLeod, Tracy Langkilde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


While it is well established that maternal stress hormones, such as corticosterone (CORT), can induce transgenerational phenotypic plasticity, few studies have addressed the influence of maternal CORT on pre-natal life stages. We tested the hypothesis that experimentally increased CORT levels of gravid female eastern fence lizards (Sceloporus undulatus) would alter within-egg embryonic phenotype, particularly heart rates. We found that embryos from CORT-treated mothers had heart rates that increased faster with increasing temperature, resulting in higher heart rates at developmentally relevant temperatures but similar heart rates at maintenance relevant temperatures, compared with embryos of control mothers. Thus, maternal CORT appears to alter the physiology of pre-natal offspring. This may speed development and decrease the amount of time spent in eggs, the most vulnerable stage of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20180718
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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