Australian Journal of Zoology Australian Journal of Zoology Society
Evolutionary, molecular and comparative zoology
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Seasonal effects on body temperature of the endangered grassland earless dragon, Tympanocryptis pinguicolla, from populations at two elevations

Lyn S. Nelson A and Paul D. Cooper A B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Ecology and Evolution, Research School of Biology, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email: paul.cooper@anu.edu.au

Australian Journal of Zoology 65(3) 165-178 https://doi.org/10.1071/ZO17017
Submitted: 22 September 2016  Accepted: 29 August 2017   Published: 2 October 2017

Abstract

The endangered grassland earless dragon, Tympanocryptis pinguicolla, is present in two geographic locations in Australia: the Australian Capital Territory and adjacent New South Wales (NSW) near Canberra (~580 m above sea level) and Monaro Plains, NSW, near Cooma (~950 m above sea level). The lizards live in native grassland, an endangered ecological community, and although the population ecology of the animal has been examined, the importance of habitat for thermoregulatory patterns is unknown. We studied whether lizards from the two locations differ in their seasonal patterns of thermoregulation by measuring skin and chest temperatures using both radio-telemetry and temperature measurement in the field, as well as thermal preferences in a laboratory thermal gradient. These results are compared with the operative temperatures (Te) in various microhabitats in the two regions to determine to what extent lizards are thermoregulating. We demonstrate that these lizards do not maintain a constant body temperature, but allow Tb to vary between 13 and 39°C when active in the field, although the grand mean for 50% basking temperatures ranged between 32 and 36°C in the laboratory gradient. Temperatures in the various microhabitats can exceed 40°C, but lizards appeared to avoid those temperatures by seeking shelter in either burrows or the base of grass tussocks. Lizards could choose microhabitats that would permit maintenance of body temperatures above 30°C in most seasons, but did not do so. As high body temperature is not selected in field conditions for either population, other processes (e.g. predation) may be more important for determining Tb maintenance.


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