Regional heterothermy is a pattern whereby different body regions are maintained at different temperatures, often to prioritize the function of certain body parts over others, or to maximize the function of organs and tissues that vary in thermal sensitivity. Regional heterothermy is relatively well understood in endotherms, where physiological mechanisms maintain heterogeneity. However, less is known about regional heterothermy in ectotherms, where behavioral mechanisms are more important for generating thermal variation. In particular, whether small and elongate ectotherms with high surface area to volume ratios such as diminutive snakes can maintain regional heterothermy, despite rapid thermal equilibration, is not yet known. We measured regional variation in body temperature and tested whether environmental heterogeneity is used to generate regional heterothermy in the ring-necked snake (Diadophis punctatus) using both field and laboratory studies. We found that ring-necked snakes have robust regional heterothermy in a variety of contexts, despite their small body size and elongate body shape. Temperature variation along the length of their bodies was not detectable when measured externally. However, snakes had higher mouth than cloacal temperatures both in the field and in laboratory thermal gradients. Further, this regional heterothermy was maintained even in ambient laboratory conditions, where the thermal environment was relatively homogeneous. Our results indicate that regional heterothermy in ring-necked snakes is not solely driven by environmental variation but is instead linked to physiological or morphological mechanisms that maintain regional variation in body temperature irrespective of environmental context.

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