Evol Ecol Res 9: 801-815 (2007)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Behavioural plasticity in an ecological generalist: microhabitat use by western fence lizards

Dee A. Asbury‡ and Stephen C. Adolph*

Department of Biology, Harvey Mudd College, 301 Platt Boulevard, Claremont, CA 91711, USA

Author to whom all correspondence should be addressed.
e-mail: adolph@hmc.edu


Question: What is the basis for geographic variation in microhabitat use in fence lizards?

Hypothesis: Population differences in microhabitat use reflect behavioural plasticity rather than genetic or experiential differences.

Organisms: Western fence lizards (Sceloporus occidentalis).

Field site: Three sites (desert, valley, and mountain) in southern California, USA.

Methods: We compared habitat use by free-ranging lizards in three field populations. We also collected lizards from these three populations and studied their microhabitat use in experimental enclosures at a single field site.

Results: In the wild, lizards chose higher and shadier perches at the hottest (desert) site, lower and sunnier perches at the coolest (mountain) site, and intermediate perches at the thermally intermediate valley site. However, lizards collected from the three source populations did not differ in microhabitat use in experimental enclosures at a common field site, supporting our hypothesis. Microhabitat choice is an important thermoregulatory mechanism in this species.

Keywords: field experiment, geographic variation, habitat shift, microclimate, nature vs. nurture, thermal biology.

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        © 2007 Stephen C. Adolph. All EER articles are copyrighted by their authors. All authors endorse, permit and license Evolutionary Ecology Ltd. to grant its subscribing institutions/libraries the copying privileges specified below without additional consideration or payment to them or to Evolutionary Ecology, Ltd. These endorsements, in writing, are on file in the office of Evolutionary Ecology, Ltd. Consult authors for permission to use any portion of their work in derivative works, compilations or to distribute their work in any commercial manner.

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