Geographic variation in the life history of the sagebrush lizard: the role of thermal constraints on activity
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Thermal constraints on the time available for activity have been proposed as a proximate mechanism to explain variation in suites of life history traits. The longer that an ectotherm can maintain activity, the more time it has to forage and the greater chance that it will encounter a predator and be eaten. Thus, the thermal environment may produce a trade off between growth and survival when variation in the environment favors increased activity. I used mark-recapture data from a demographic study of three natural populations of the sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus graciosus) and estimates of thermal opportunity for each population to evaluate whether variation in the thermal environment can explain patterns of growth and survival that occur over an elevational gradient. Lizards from the highest elevation population exhibited higher individual growth rates than those of lizards from lower elevation, while mortality rates increased with elevation for these populations. The covariation of fast growth and high mortality with increased thermal opportunity is the opposite trend expected if the thermal environment alone is to explain patterns of life history in these lizards. Additional factors including thermal heterogeneity in the distribution of microhabitats of lizards, adaptation to local environmental conditions, and a potential trade-off between resource acquisition and predation risk need to be addressed to obtain a satisfactory explanation of the causative mechanisms producing life history variation.