Li, S.-R., Hao, X., Bi, J.-H. et al. 2017. Why do female desert lizards construct burrows to lay eggs? Behaviour 154(9/10), 1051–1068.

Many oviparous animals construct well-designed nests to provide relatively favourable conditions for their eggs and hatchlings, but the direct evidence that nest structure can determine their reproductive success is insufficient. In the present study, we explored the structure of nests and its effect on nest environments and reproductive success in the toad-headed agama (Phrynocephalus przewalskii). We observed that female P. przewalskii constructed burrow nest consisting of an inclined tunnel and an expanded chamber. We constructed artificial nests with or without the burrow to determine how burrows influence nest environments, egg survival and successful emergence of hatchlings. Our results indicated that burrow nests had higher and more stable humidity than non-burrow nests. More importantly, egg survival and the emergence success of hatchlings were significantly higher for burrow nests than for non-burrow nests. Therefore, our manipulation experiments provide direct evidence that maternal nest construction behaviour could determine parental reproductive success in reptile.

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