ABSTRACT

The predicted rise of global temperatures is of major concern for ectotherms because of its direct impact on their behavior and physiology. As physiological performance mediates a species’ resilience to warming exposure, physiological plasticity could greatly reduce the susceptibility to climate change. We studied the degree to which Diplolaemus leopardinus lizards are able to adjust behavioral and physiological traits in response to short periods of temperature change. We used a split cross design to measure the acclimation response of preferred body temperature (Tp), and the thermal performance curve of resting metabolic rate (RMR) and evaporative water loss (EWL). Our results showed that plasticity differs among traits: whereas Tp and EWL showed lower values in warm conditions, the body temperature at which RMR was highest increased. Moreover, RMR was affected by thermal history, showing a large increase in response to cold exposure in the group initially acclimated to warm temperatures. The reduction of EWL and the increase in optimal temperature will give lizards the potential to partially mitigate the impact of rising temperatures in the energy cost and water balance. However, the decrease in Tp and the sensitivity to the warm thermal history of RMR could be detrimental to the energy net gain, increasing the species’ vulnerability, especially considering the increase of heat waves predicted for the next 50 years. The integration of acclimation responses in behavioral and physiological traits provides a better understanding of the range of possible responses of lizards to cope with the upcoming climatic and environmental modifications expected as a result of climate change.

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