Effect of masking the parietal eye on the diurnal activity and body temperature of two sympatric species of monitor lizards, Varanus s. salvator and Varanus b. nebulosus
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Five water monitor lizards, Varanus salvator salvator, and four clouded monitor lizards, Varanus bengalensis nebulosus, were caught on Tioman island in Malaysia. A radio-thermistor transmitter was implanted into the buccal cavity of each animal, and they were released into an enclosure measuring 5.5 × 6.5 metres. The lizards were observed for 9 and 8 days, respectively, before and after the parietal eye was covered with aluminium foil. With uncovered parietal eye, both species showed a clear diurnal rhythm, being active only during day time. After covering the parietal eye, the mean locomotor activity of five V. s. salvator decreased from 791 to 107 min · day–1 but remained unchanged around 850 min · day–1 for V. b. nebulosus. The mean duration of locomotor activity decreased in V. s. salvator and V. b. nebulosus after the parietal eye was covered, but V. b. nebulosus maintained its locomotor activity by increasing the number of locomotor bouts. The water monitor spent very little time on thermoregulation. Its body temperature ranged between 26.3 and 28.4 °C, which decreased after the parietal eye was covered. The clouded monitor thermoregulated around 28.8–36.0 °C, which remained unchanged after the parietal eye was covered. In both species, there was a strong correlation between body temperature and ambient temperature. Behavioural abnormalities were recorded among V. s. salvator with covered parietal eye. They were often observed to be active by night and often slept outside a burrow. The circadian rhythm of V. b. nebulosus appeared unaffected by shielding of its parietal eye. Captivity combined with shielded parietal eye induced agonistic behaviour in both species.
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