Climate warming and reproduction in Chinese alligators

Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Animal Conservation, 2009, 12 (2), pp. 128 - 137
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The Chinese alligator Alligator sinensis is a critically endangered species endemic to China, and one of the most endangered crocodilian species in the world. Like many other reptiles, important aspects of alligator biology such as foraging, timing of hibernation, breeding and the sex ratio of offspring are all affected by temperature variation. We examined the effects of long-term temperature change on oviposition dates and clutch sizes of the Chinese alligator in a semi-natural facility in southern China. Our study focused on two captive generations including an old breeding generation captured from the wild and a generation composed of their F1 offspring. Median oviposition date shifted to earlier in the year and mean clutch size was larger for both generations as the monthly mean air temperature in April increased over the 19 years of data collection. We observed a mean advance in oviposition date of 10 days for the old breeding generation from 1987 to 2005 and 8 days for both generations from 1991 to 2005. Correspondingly, clutch sizes for the two generations also increased during this period. There were no differences in median oviposition dates and clutch sizes between the two generations from 1991 to 2005. Our results suggest that Chinese alligators have responded to increasing global temperatures. Our findings also suggest that recent increasing global temperatures have the potential to have a substantial effect on Chinese alligator populations in the wild, thus prompting an urgent need for field monitoring of the effects of global warming on this endangered alligator species.
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