, Volume 180, Issue 2, pp 325–334 | Cite as

Turn up the heat: thermal tolerances of lizards at La Selva, Costa Rica

  • George A. BruschIV
  • Emily N. Taylor
  • Steven M. Whitfield
Highlighted Student Research


Global temperature increases over the next century are predicted to contribute to the extinction of a number of taxa, including up to 40 % of all lizard species. Lizards adapted to living in lowland tropical areas are especially vulnerable because of their dependence on specific microhabitats, low vagility, and a reduced capacity to physiologically adjust to environmental change. To assess the potential effects of climate change on lizards in the lowland tropics, we measured the critical thermal maximum (CTmax) of ten species from La Selva, Costa Rica. We also examined how well body size, microhabitat type, and species predicted the CTmax. We used current temperature data along with projected temperature increases for 2080 to predict which species may be at the greatest risk at La Selva. Of the ten species sampled, four are at serious risk of lowland extirpation and three others might also be at risk under the highest predicted temperature-increase models. Forest floor lizards at La Selva have already experienced significant population declines over the past 40 years, and we found that each of the forest floor species we studied is at serious risk of local extirpation. We also found that microhabitat type is the strongest predictor of CTmax, demonstrating the profound impact habitat specialization has on the thermal limits of tropical lizards.


Thermal physiology Conservation Lowland tropics Habitat specialization Critical thermal maximum 



This work was supported by the National Science Foundation and the Organization for Tropical Studies Research Experience for Undergraduates. This manuscript was greatly improved by the suggestions and support of Dr Diego Salazar, the 2013 Research Experience for Undergraduates undergrad group at La Selva, and Tony Frazier. All applicable institutional and/or national guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

Author contribution statement

G. A. B. and S. M. W. conceived and designed the experiments. G. A. B. and S. M. W. conducted fieldwork and performed the experiments. G. A. B. and E. N. T. analyzed the data. G. A. B., E. N. T., and S. M. W. wrote the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Life SciencesArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesCalifornia Polytechnic State UniversitySan Luis ObispoUSA
  3. 3.Conservation and Research DepartmentZoo MiamiMiamiUSA

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