Thermoregulation in the lizard Psammodromus algirus along a 2200-m elevational gradient in Sierra Nevada (Spain).

Research paper by Francisco Javier FJ Zamora-Camacho, Senda S Reguera, Gregorio G Moreno-Rueda

Indexed on: 17 Sep '15Published on: 17 Sep '15Published in: International Journal of Biometeorology


Achieving optimal body temperature maximizes animal fitness. Since ambient temperature may limit ectotherm thermal performance, it can be constrained in too cold or hot environments. In this sense, elevational gradients encompass contrasting thermal environments. In thermally pauperized elevations, ectotherms may either show adaptations or suboptimal body temperatures. Also, reproductive condition may affect thermal needs. Herein, we examined different thermal ecology and physiology capabilities of the lizard Psammodromus algirus along a 2200-m elevational gradient. We measured field (Tb) and laboratory-preferred (Tpref) body temperatures of lizards with different reproductive conditions, as well as ambient (Ta) and copper-model operative temperature (Te), which we used to determine thermal quality of the habitat (de), accuracy (db), and effectiveness of thermoregulation (de-db) indexes. We detected no Tb trend in elevation, while Ta constrained Tb only at high elevations. Moreover, while Ta decreased more than 7 °C with elevation, Tpref dropped only 0.6 °C, although significantly. Notably, low-elevation lizards faced excess temperature (Te > Tpref). Notably, de was best at middle elevations, followed by high elevations, and poorest at low elevations. Nonetheless, regarding microhabitat, high-elevation de was more suitable in sun-exposed microhabitats, which may increase exposition to predators, and at midday, which may limit daily activity. As for gender, db and de-db were better in females than in males. In conclusion, P. algirus seems capable to face a wide thermal range, which probably contributes to its extensive corology and makes it adaptable to climate changes.