Experimental manipulation reveals the importance of refuge habitat temperature selected by lizards

Andersson, Micha, Krockenberger, Andrew, and Schwarzkopf, Lin (2010) Experimental manipulation reveals the importance of refuge habitat temperature selected by lizards. Austral Ecology, 35 (3). pp. 294-299.

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Abstract

Refuges provide shelter from predators, and protection from exposure to the elements, as well as other fitness benefits to animals that use them. In ectotherms, thermal benefits may be a critical aspect of refuges. We investigated microhabitat characteristics of refuges selected by a heliothermic scincid lizard, Carlia rubrigularis, which uses rainforest edges as habitat. We approached lizards in the field, simulating a predator attack, and quantified the refuge type used, and effect of environmental temperatures (air temperature, substrate temperature and refuge substrate temperature) on the amount of time skinks remained in refuges after hiding (emergence time). In respone to our approach, lizards were most likely to flee into leaf litter, rather than into rocks or woody debris, and emergence time was dependent on refuge substrate temperature, and on refuge substrate temperature relative to substrate temperature outside the refuge. Lizards remained for longer periods in warmer refuges, and in refuges that were similar in temperature to outside. We examined lizard refuge choice in response to temperature and substrate type in large, semi-natural outdoor enclosures. We experimentally manipulated refuge habitat temperature available to lizards, and offered them equal areas of leaf litter, woody debris and rocks. When refuge habitat temperature was unmanipulated, lizards (85%) preferred leaf litter, as they did in the field. However, when we experimentally manipulated the temperature of the leaf litter by shading, most skinks (75%) changed their preferred refuge habitat from leaf litter to woody debris or rocks. These results suggest that temperature is a critical determinant of refuge habitat choice for these diurnal ectotherms, both when fleeing from predators and when selecting daytime retreats.

Item ID: 10558
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: Carlia rubrigularis; experiment; habitat selection; retreat site selection; skink; temperature; tropical biology
ISSN: 1442-9993
Date Deposited: 04 Aug 2010 05:33
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060201 Behavioural Ecology @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060203 Ecological Physiology @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960806 Forest and Woodlands Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960305 Ecosystem Adaptation to Climate Change @ 50%
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