James Stewart, a biologist at East Tennessee State University who’s researching the phenomenon, said, “By studying differences among populations that are in different stages of this process, you can begin to put together what looks like the transition from one [birth style] to the other.”
Baby mammals get nutrients from the placenta, and babies incubated inside eggs get their nutrients from the yolk and shell. Without either one of these protective casings, how live skink babies are surviving in vitro is currently a mystery.
Another thing to watch is whether the skinks will begin to favor one type of birth over the other, since both methods carry risks. Eggs are more vulnerable to external threats like weather and predators, but internal fetuses are more dangerous to the mother.
Right now, researchers have more questions than answers, but one thing’s for sure: the science world will definitely be keeping a close watch on the yellow-bellied three-toed skink.
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