Hot and not-so-hot females: reproductive tradeoffs associated with thermoregulation in female Arizona Bark Scorpions (Centruroides sculpturatus)

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For ectotherms, environmental temperatures influence numerous life history characteristics, and the body temperatures (Tb) selected by individuals can affect offspring fitness and parental survival. Reproductive trade-offs may therefore ensue for gravid females, because temperatures conducive to embryonic development may compromise females' body condition. We tested whether reproduction influenced thermoregulation in female Arizona Bark Scorpions (Centruroides sculpturatus). We predicted that gravid females select higher Tb and thermoregulate more precisely than nonreproductive females. Gravid C. sculpturatus gain body mass throughout gestation, which exposes larger portions of their pleural membrane, possibly increasing their rates of transcuticular water loss in arid environments. Accordingly, we tested whether gravid C. sculpturatus lose water faster than nonreproductive females. We determined the preferred Tb of female scorpions in a thermal gradient and measured water loss rates using flow-through respirometry. Gravid females preferred significantly higher Tb than nonreproductive females, suggesting that gravid C. sculpturatus alter their thermoregulatory behaviour to promote offspring fitness. However, all scorpions thermoregulated with equal precision, perhaps because arid conditions create selective pressure on all females to thermoregulate effectively. Gravid females lost water faster than nonreproductive animals, indicating that greater exposure of the pleural membrane during gestation enhances the desiccation risk of reproductive females. Our findings suggest that gravid C. sculpturatus experience a trade-off, whereby selection of higher Tb and increased mass during gestation increase females' susceptibility to water loss, and thus their mortality risk. Elucidating the mechanisms that influence thermal preferences may reveal how reproductive trade-offs shape the life history of ectotherms in arid environments.