Thermal Sensitivity of Growth Rate in Hatchling 'Sceloporus' Lizards: Environmental, Behavioral and Genetic Aspects

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Biology (HMC)

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To investigate the physiological, behavioral, and genetic contributions to growth rate, we studied the thermal sensitivity of growth rate in hatchlings of the iguanid lizards Sceloporus occidentalis and S. graciosus in the laboratory. We used a cycling thermal regime patterned after thermal environments found in nature. Growth rates increased with duration of access to radiant heat. Thus, variation in the thermal environment can cause phenotypic variation in growth rate and hence body size. The two species differed in both the magnitude and thermal sensitivity of growth rate, and these differences were associated with differences in behavioral thermoregulation. Thus, growth is determined interactively by both behavior and physiology. We found evidence of among-family variation in the growth rates of S. occidentalis, suggesting that growth rate has the genetic potential to evolve. In S. occidentalis, both growth rate and egg size affected body size of hatchlings at several weeks of age. In turn, hatchling size may affect fitness: for example, larger S. occidentalis hatchlings had higher sprint speeds and may therefore be more adept at capturing prey or evading predators. Our results demonstrate that growth rate has genetic, behavioral, and physiological components, and that the resulting effects on body size may have important consequences for ecological performance e.g., sprint speed.

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Oecologia ©Springer-Verlag 1989