In 'How do Embryos Assess Risk? Vibrational Cues in Predator-Induced Hatching of Red-Eyed Treefrogs' (2005), Karen Warkentin reported on experiments she conducted to see how red-eyed treefrog embryos, Agalychnis callidryas, can distinguish between vibrations due to predator attacks and other environmental occurrences, such as storms. Though the ability of red-eyed treefrogs to alter their hatch timing had been documented, the specific cues that induce early hatching were not well understood. Warkentin's study demonstrated that, based on vibration signals alone, treefrog embryos can determine whether they are under attack from a predator and respond accordingly.

Edward Drinker Cope studied fossils and anatomy in the US in the late nineteenth century. Based on his observations of skeletal morphology, Cope developed a novel mechanism to explain the law of parallelism, the idea that developing organisms successively pass through stages resembling their ancestors. Others had proposed the addition of new body forms at the end of an individual organism's developed as a mechanism through which new species arose, but those proposals relied on changes in the lengths of gestation or incubation. Cope proposed that a change in the growth rate of an embryo or fetus would allow the formation of new body forms while gestation or incubation periods remained constant. Thus, the growth of an embryo or fetus must become faster or slower to alter the number of stages during growth. Many paleontologists and geologists of the time, including Henry Fairfield Osborn and Louis Agassiz, accepted Cope's mechanisms of evolution as alternatives to natural selection as the causes generating new species, yet Cope proposed his mechanism solely as a way by which new genera arise. He advocated the neo-Lamarckian theory that new species evolve through the inheritance of acquired characteristics.

The sex of a reptile embryo partly results from the production of sex hormones during development, and one process to produce those hormones depends on the temperature of the embryo's environment. The production of sex hormones can result solely from genetics or from genetics in combination with the influence of environmental factors. In genotypic sex determination, also called genetic or chromosomal sex determination, an organism's genes determine which hormones are produced. Non-genetic sex determination occurs when the sex of an organism can be altered during a sensitive period of development due to external factors such as temperature, humidity, or social interactions. Temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD), where the temperature of the embryo's environment influences its sex development, is a widespread non-genetic process of sex determination among vertebrates, including reptiles. All crocodilians, most turtles, many fish, and some lizards exhibit TSD.

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