To cope with limited availability of drinking water in their environment, terrestrial animals have developed numerous behavioral and physiological strategies including maintaining an optimal hydration state through dietary water intake. Recent studies performed in snakes, which are generalist carnivorous reptiles, suggest that the benefits of dietary water intake are negated by hydric costs of digestion. Most lizards are generalist insectivores that can shift their prey types, but firm experimental demonstration of dietary water intake is currently missing in these organisms. Here, we performed an experimental study in the common lizard Zootoca vivipara, a keystone mesopredator from temperate climates exhibiting a great diversity of prey in its mesic habitats, in order to investigate the effects of food consumption and prey type on physiological responses to water deprivation. Our results indicate that common lizards cannot improve their hydration state through prey consumption, irrespective of prey type, suggesting that they are primarily dependent upon drinking water. Yet, high-quality prey consumption reduced the energetic costs of water deprivation, potentially helping lizards to conserve a better body condition during periods of limited water availability. These findings have important implications for understanding the physiological responses of ectotherms to water stress, and highlight the complex interactions between hydration status, energy metabolism and feeding behavior in insectivorous lizards.

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