Maternal Provision and Embryonic Uptake of Calcium in an Oviparous and a Placentotrophic Viviparous Australian Lizard (Lacertilia: Scincidae)

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Embryos of oviparous lizards have two sources of calcium for embryonic development: 1) calcium that accumulates in yolk during vitellogenesis, and 2) calcium carbonate deposited in the eggshell from oviductal secretions. Eggs of viviparous lizards lack a calcified eggshell and calcium secreted by the uterus is delivered to the embryo across a placenta. Whereas oviparous lizard embryos recover calcium from the eggshell during late developmental growth stages, viviparous embryos have a lengthy intimate association with the uterus and the potential for an extended interval of placental calcium transfer. We compared the pattern of calcium mobilization of embryos of the viviparous, placentotrophic scincid lizard, Pseudemoia pagenstecheri, to that of a closely related oviparous species, Saproscincus mustelinus, to determine if the timing of uterine calcium secretion was influenced by reproductive mode. Embryos of both species receive a substantial amount of calcium from either the eggshell or placenta (54% and 85% respectively). The ontogeny of calcium uptake by embryos of P. pagenstecheri reveals that the onset of embryonic acquisition of calcium occurs earlier relative to embryonic stage but the timing of peak uterine secretion of calcium is delayed, compared to S. mustelinus.