The Burden of Reproduction in Lizards: Changes in Respiratory Physiology Associated with Reduced Lung Volume

Previous morphological work on lizards suggests that the volume of growing eggs may result in a significant decrease in lung volume during gravidity. Iguanid lizard lungs are located within continuous thoracic and abdominal cavities and are highly distensible. Because of their distensible nature and lack of a diaphragm, both naturally occurring and introduced structures within the abdominal and thoracic cavities (i.e. organs, food, eggs) compress them and potentially reduce available lung volume for gas exchange. During reproduction, this decrease comes at a time of increased energetic demands, due to the cost of provisioning eggs and the physical burden of transporting the extra mass before laying. This means that females must increase the oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange with effectively smaller lung capacity than when they are not reproductive. Therefore, the way species compensate for this decrease affects performance, and ultimately the survival of individuals and their offspring.