Influence of interspecific competitors on behavioral thermoregulation: developmental or acute plasticity?

  • Barbora Winterová
  • Lumír GvoždíkEmail author
Original Article


Many ectotherms reduce their exposure to changing thermal conditions using behavioral thermoregulation. The effectiveness of behavioral thermoregulation in maintaining ectotherm body temperatures within the target range is influenced not only by environmental (operative) temperatures but also by the presence of other con- and heterospecific individuals. How species’ interactions affect behavioral thermoregulation is largely unknown. Theory predicts that species’ interactions could affect the plasticity of behavioral thermoregulation in two ways, i.e., by developmental plasticity of a preferred temperature range or by an acute shift in body temperatures. Empirical tests of these predictions are scarce. We examined the developmental and acute effects of heterospecific social interactions on the accuracy and effectiveness of thermoregulation in the larvae of two competing species, Ichthyosaura alpestris and Lissotriton vulgaris. The presence of heterospecifics during larval development had no effect on preferred body temperatures but it modified later acute thermoregulatory responses to heterospecifics. Ichthyosaura alpestris larvae from heterospecific tanks increased their thermoregulatory accuracy and effectiveness, while L. vulgaris larvae from conspecific tanks relaxed their thermoregulatory efforts. The thermal dependence of somatic growth suggests that modified behavioral thermoregulation has the potential to accelerate growth in competitively dominant I. alpestris. Acute thermoregulatory responses are affected by heterospecific social interactions in newt larvae, but not conspecific. A developmental plastic response modified body temperatures not the target thermoregulatory range, which shows that the influence of heterospecific social interactions is more complex than predicted by theory. Species interactions complicate estimating an ectotherm’s vulnerability to ongoing climate change.

Significance statement

Many ectothermic animals control their body temperature through behavioral thermoregulation. Their thermoregulatory decisions are influenced not only by environmental temperatures, but also by the presence of other species. We show that the current thermoregulatory effort in interacting newt larvae is affected by previous experience with competing species. The influence of heterospecific social interactions is more complex than predicted by theory, which complicates estimating an ectotherm’s vulnerability to ongoing climate change.


Climate change Species interactions Thermal niche Preferred temperatures Behavioral plasticity Newt 



We thank C. R. Gabor and anonymous reviewers for their comments on the previous version of this paper; we would also thank P. Kristín for his help with the realization of seminatural experiment.


This research was supported by the Czech Science Foundation (grant numbers 15-07140S and 17-15480S to LG) and the Institute of Vertebrate Biology AS CR (RVO: 68081766 to LG).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the use of animals were followed. All experimental procedures were approved by the Expert Committee for Animal Conservation of the Institute of Vertebrate Biology AS CR (research protocol no. 135/2016). The Agency for Nature Conservation and Landscape Protection of the Czech Republic issued permission to capture the newts (1154/ZV/2008).

Supplementary material

265_2018_2587_MOESM1_ESM.doc (20 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 19 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Botany and ZoologyMasaryk UniversityBrnoCzech Republic
  2. 2.Institute of Vertebrate Biology of the Czech Academy of SciencesBrnoCzech Republic

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