SREL Reprint #2290




Egg Components and Hatchling Lipid Reserves: Parental Investment in Kinosternid Turtles from the Southeastern United States

Roy D. Nagle, Vincent J. Burke, Justin D. Congdon
The University of Georgia, Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Drawer E, Aiken, SC 29802, USA


We measured egg components and pre-ovulatory parental investment in kinosternid turtles (Kinosternon baurii, Kinosternon subrubrum, Sternotherus minor, and Sternotherus odoratus) from the southeastern USA. Allocation patterns were determined by comparing lipid content of eggs and hatchlings, to determine whether females of species with hatchlings that exhibit a delayed nest-emergence strategy: (1) allocate higher proportions of energy storage lipids to eggs, (2) produce hatchlings with higher levels of storage lipids, and (3) have higher levels of pre-ovulatory parental investment in comparison to species whose hatchlings exhibit immediate emergence. Whereas total non-polar lipid (NPL) proportions by dry mass of eggs varied significantly among species, NPL proportions of hatchlings were not significantly different. Pre-ovulatory parental investment in care (proportion of hatchling NPL to egg NPL) was 40, 50, and 55% for K. subrubrum, S. minor, and S. odoratus, respectively. Lipid class composition of eggs and hatchlings was studied to distinguish lipids allocated for energy storage from those allocated to other functions. For both eggs and hatchlings, individual lipid classes (triacylglycerol, triacylglycerol fatty acid, cholesterol, cholesterol ester, and phospholipid) as proportions of total lipid, were similar among species. The major lipid class component of eggs and hatchlings of all species was triacylglycerot ( > 83%), an energy storage lipid. Substantial changes in lipid classes during embryogenesis were similar among species and included: (1) depletion of triacylglycerol, (2) increase in cholesterol esters, and (3) changes in phospholipid composition. Incubation time varied significantly among species, and appeared to be responsible for differential energy utilization during embryogenesis. Our results are inconsistent with the previously observed pattern that hatchlings exhibiting a delayed nest-emergence strategy are allocated higher proportions of energy storage lipids than those that exhibit immediate emergence. However, because the species that overwinters in the nest (K. subrubrum) hatches approximately 40 days later than the species that typically does not (S. odoratus), hatchling K. subrubrum may contain higher non-polar lipid proportions than hatchling S. odoratus during similar winter time periods. Kinosternid hatchlings contain enough stored lipids to support basal maintenance costs for substantial time periods. We suggest that such reserves may be critical to hatchling survival during a period of negative energy balance, regardless of nest emergence strategy.

Keywords: Egg; Hatchlings; latroscan; Kinosternon; Lipids; Parental investment; Reptiles; Sternotherus; TLC-FID; Turtles Egg; Hatchlings; latroscan; Kinosternon; Lipids; Parental investment; Reptiles; Sternotherus; TLC-FID; Turtles

SREL Reprint #2290

Nagle, R.D., V.J. Burke, and J.D. Congdon. 1998. Egg components and hatchling lipid reserves: parental investment in kinosternid turtles from the southeastern United States. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part B 120:145-152.

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