Basking behavior predicts the evolution of heat tolerance in Australian rainforest lizards

Muñoz, Martha M., Langham, Gary M., Brandley, Matthew C., Rosauer, Dan F., Williams, Stephen E., and Moritz, Craig (2016) Basking behavior predicts the evolution of heat tolerance in Australian rainforest lizards. Evolution, 70 (11). pp. 2537-2549.

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There is pressing urgency to understand how tropical ectotherms can behaviorally and physiologically respond to climate warming. We examine how basking behavior and thermal environment interact to influence evolutionary variation in thermal physiology of multiple species of lygosomine rainforest skinks from the Wet Tropics of northeastern Queensland, Australia (AWT). These tropical lizards are behaviorally specialized to exploit canopy or sun, and are distributed across marked thermal clines in the AWT. Using phylogenetic analyses, we demonstrate that physiological parameters are either associated with changes in local thermal habitat or to basking behavior, but not both. Cold tolerance, the optimal sprint speed, and performance breadth are primarily influenced by local thermal environment. Specifically, montane lizards are more cool tolerant, have broader performance breadths, and higher optimum sprinting temperatures than their lowland counterparts. Heat tolerance, in contrast, is strongly affected by basking behavior: there are two evolutionary optima, with basking species having considerably higher heat tolerance than shade skinks, with no effect of elevation. These distinct responses among traits indicate the multiple selective pressures and constraints that shape the evolution of thermal performance. We discuss how behavior and physiology interact to shape organisms’ vulnerability and potential resilience to climate change.

Item ID: 49157
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1558-5646
Keywords: Australian wet tropics; behavioral thermoregulation; climate change; physiological evolution; skinks; thermal physiology
Funders: National Science Foundation (NSF), Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: NSF postdoctoral fellowship
Date Deposited: 06 Jun 2017 05:36
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410407 Wildlife and habitat management @ 50%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3109 Zoology > 310907 Animal physiological ecology @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960805 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity at Regional or Larger Scales @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960301 Climate Change Adaptation Measures @ 50%
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