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Phenotypic plasticity may help lizards cope with increasingly variable temperatures

Abstract

Temperature variability is predicted to increase in the coming century due to climate change. However, the biological impact of increased temperature variability on animals remains largely unexplored. Here, we experimentally exposed gravid viviparous lizards (Eremias multiocellata) to two thermal environments [constant daily maximum (CDM) versus variable daily maximum (VDM) treatment with the same average temperature] to address maternal and offspring responses to increased variability in ambient temperature. Females from the VDM treatment delayed parturition, but produced similar litter sizes and litter masses as did CDM females. Offspring from the VDM treatment selected higher body temperatures, had higher metabolic rates and higher growth rates, and grew to a similar size as those from the CDM treatment despite having a shorter growth period prior to hibernation. Therefore, phenotypic plasticity may be critical for lizards to respond effectively to climate change, and its role in responding to increasingly variable temperatures warrants further attention.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Raymond Huey, Lauren Buckley, Rory Telemeco, Sima Bouzid, Matt McElroy for comments that improved the manuscripts and Shu-ran Li, Yang Wang, Jonathan Remon, Ting-ting Wang, Teng Li for help with lizard collection and laboratory work. This study was funded by Grants from National Natural Science Foundation of China (31720103904 and 31525006) and The Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDPB0202).

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Contributions

WD and LM conceived and designed the experiments. LM and PC conduct the field work. LM, BS and XL collected the data in laboratory. LM, BS and WD analyzed the data. LM and WD wrote the manuscript, other authors provided editorial advice.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Wei-guo Du.

Additional information

Communicated by Hannu J. Ylonen.

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Ma, L., Sun, Bj., Cao, P. et al. Phenotypic plasticity may help lizards cope with increasingly variable temperatures. Oecologia 187, 37–45 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-018-4127-1

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Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Physiological compensation
  • Reptile
  • Thermoregulation
  • Temperature variability