Thermal dependence of sprint performance in the lizard Psammodromus algirus along a 2200-meter elevational gradient: Cold-habitat lizards do not perform better at low temperatures.

Research paper by Francisco Javier FJ Zamora-Camacho, María Virtudes MV Rubiño-Hispán, Senda S Reguera, Gregorio G Moreno-Rueda

Indexed on: 13 Aug '15Published on: 13 Aug '15Published in: Journal of Thermal Biology


Sprint speed has a capital relevance in most animals' fitness, mainly for fleeing from predators. Sprint performance is maximal within a certain range of body temperatures in ectotherms, whose thermal upkeep relies on exogenous thermal sources. Ectotherms can respond to diverse thermal environments either by shifting their thermal preferences or maintaining them through different adaptive mechanisms. Here, we tested whether maximum sprint speed of a lizard that shows conservative thermal ecology along a 2200-meter elevational gradient differs with body temperature in lizards from different elevations. Lizards ran faster at optimum than at suboptimum body temperature. Notably, high-elevation lizards were not faster than mid- and low-elevation lizards at suboptimum body temperature, despite their low-quality thermal environment. This result suggests that both preferred body temperature and thermal dependence of speed performance are co-adapted along the elevational gradient. High-elevation lizards display a number of thermoregulatory strategies that allow them to achieve high optimum body temperatures in a low thermal-quality habitat and thus maximize speed performance. As for reproductive condition, we did not find any effect of it on sprint speed, or any significant interaction with elevation or body temperature. However, strikingly, gravid females were significantly slower than males and non-gravid females at suboptimum temperature, but performed similarly well at optimal temperature.