The sex of snow skink lizards is influenced by altitudes and climate, indicating the species' ability to adapt to climate, according to a new study published in the Nature journal.
An international team, led by Dr Erik Wapstra and Dr Geoff While of the University of Tasmania, studied the snow skink (Niveoscincus ocellatus), a small lizard commonly found in Tasmania.
The team found that the sex of the snow skink offspring, when found at high altitudes, was determined by genetics (as it is with humans, birds etc).
At low altitudes, temperature influenced sex determination (as is common in turtles and crocodiles) -- cool thermal conditions produced more sons, and vice versa when sun basking opportunities are good.
"But what is so interesting about these skinks is that the populations have different sex-determining mechanisms at different altitudes, and therefore different climates.
"The results suggest that the systems that determine the sex of reptile offspring are adaptable and responsive to climate," Dr Wapstra said.
The findings suggest that in lowland populations, daughters benefit more than sons from being born early in the season because it allows them to reach the minimum size at maturity earlier than females that are born late.