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Habits hidden underground: a review on the reproduction of the Amphisbaenia with notes on four neotropical species

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We review the information currently available on the reproduction of the Amphisbaenia and provide original data on the reproductive biology of four Neotropical species: Amphisbaena alba; A. mertensi; Cercolophia roberti, and Leposternon infraorbitale. In total, we compiled data for 22 species: 17 Amphisbaenidae, 1 Rhineuridae, 3 Bipedidae, and 1 Trogonophidae. The majority of the species were oviparous with the exceptions of Loveridgea ionidesii, Monopeltis anchietae, M. capensis, and Trogonophis wiegmanni. Viviparity was interpreted as a derived trait that evolved independently for at least 3 times within the Amphisbaenia. In most species, reproduction is synchronized with the hot and rainy season and seems to vary with latitude. Although Amphisbaenia eggs have been found in ant nests, it remains disputable whether this is an obligatory or even a preferable location for egg-laying. Incubation time in A. mertensii lasts 59 days and this is the first report encompassing egg-laying to hatching for any Amphisbaenia species. Nonetheless, a two months incubation period seems to be the common rule for oviparous Amphisbaenia. The general pattern of reproductive output in Amphisbaenia is characterized by a low number of eggs/embryos per clutch whose individual size is comparatively large in relation to adult body size. Eggs are markedly elongated on the long axis and arranged in-line within the abdominal cavity possibly to prevent/diminish biomechanic drawbacks of egg bearing. Hatchlings of A. mertensi possess an egg-tooth implanted at the upper jaw, exhibit positive geotropism, and display defensive behaviors known to be present in adults. Our review shows that our current knowledge of Amphisbaenia reproduction is fragmentary, often based on the examination of small samples, and heavily dependent on the publication of anedoctal observations. Future publications on this subject are encouraged.


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