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A place in the sun: interspecific interference affects thermoregulation in coexisting lizards

Abstract

Solar radiation is in theory an unlimited resource on Earth, but can be locally limited. Heliothermic organisms use solar radiation to elevate their body temperatures, leading them to compete for sun-exposed areas, where interference for limited resource can occur. In coexisting lizard species, interference for basking sites could promote and direct interspecific interactions, which can be related to broader geographic species distribution patterns. We compared two competing lizard species (Podarcis muralis and Iberolacerta horvathi) that occupy sun-exposed gaps in a forested landscape in the Northern Dinaric Mountains (southern Europe). Both species exhibit an altitudinal segregation pattern with a high zone of overlap at middle altitudes. Using experimental thermal gradients, we tested for existence of interference competition. We used adult male lizards in three social contexts, alone as a measure of preferred body temperature (T p) and in conspecific or heterospecific pairs as a measure of realized body temperature (T r). I. horvathi achieved lower T r compared to its T p (alone), while T r of P. muralis did not vary between social contexts. The evidence for interference found in I. horvathi could not be explained by a change in their general movement pattern in a thermal gradient. Our results suggest that interference was a result of direct agonistic interactions, assessed by the frequency of approaches and touches. I. horvathi showed higher interference-susceptibility than P. muralis indicating an asymmetric interaction between the two species. Sunlight (as a resource) is an important factor influencing distribution patterns in assemblages of heliothermic ectotherms where sun-exposed basking sites are limited.

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Acknowledgments

We greatly thank Pedro Tarroso for assistance with video editing and Seth Wilson and Katja Bitenc for English revision. AŽ was funded through a PhD grant (SFRH/BD/81324/2011) supported by Fundação para e Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT) doctoral fellowships under the Programa Operacional Potencial Humano – Quadro de Referência Estratégico Nacional funds from the European Social Fund and Portuguese Ministério da Educação e Ciência. NS was supported by a FCT contract (IF/01526/2013). This research was party supported by the project “Biodiversity, Ecology and Global Change” co-financed by North Portugal Regional Operational Programme 2007/2013 (ON.2 – O Novo Norte), under the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF), through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), PTDC/BIA-BEC/101256/2008 of FCT (Portugal), FCOMP-01-0124-FEDER-007062 COMPETE program.

Compliance with ethical standards

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. All lizards were collected and used in experiments under the special licenses No. 35601–32/2010–6 and 35601–47/2011–6 issued by the Slovenian Environment Agency. We state that the welfare of animals for research was respected during housing and experiments. All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All involved lizards were kept in individual terraria with natural light and heat regime and were provided with food and water ad libitum. Lizards were kept in the laboratory for a maximum of 10 days and afterwards released back at the capture sites after being fed and rehydrated.

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Correspondence to Anamarija Žagar.

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Communicated by S. J. Downes

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Žagar, A., Carretero, M.A., Osojnik, N. et al. A place in the sun: interspecific interference affects thermoregulation in coexisting lizards. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 69, 1127–1137 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-015-1927-8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-015-1927-8

Keywords

  • Interference
  • Heliothermic ectotherms
  • Thermoregulatory behavior
  • Social interactions
  • Agonistic behavior
  • Competition