Hydroregulation in a tropical dry-skinned ectotherm
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While temperature effects on species’ vulnerability to climate change are well studied, desiccation effects receive comparatively little attention. In addition, we poorly understand the capacity of ectotherms, and especially reptiles, to control water loss rates behaviourally by selecting suitable microhabitats. This study examined water loss rates and behavioural hydroregulation in the tropical rainforest skink Carlia rubrigularis to assess whether this dry-skinned ectotherm actively avoids desiccation and whether trade-offs occur between desiccation avoidance and selection of optimal temperatures, as previously shown in amphibians. Higher temperatures elicited humid refuge choice despite placing individuals in suboptimal thermal conditions, as indicated by preferred substrate temperatures. This finding emphasizes the importance of water loss even for taxa traditionally assumed to be highly desiccation resistant, and highlights this factor’s potential influence on vulnerability to climate change by limiting activity times or by restricting individuals to thermally suboptimal microhabitats.
KeywordsDesiccation threshold Climate change Water loss Skinks Lizards
We thank L. Hunter for help with animal collection, V. Graham, G. Buckton, K. Mintram, and M. Comerford for assistance with husbandry and J. Larsson for technical assistance. Funding was provided by James Cook University, the Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change, the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, and the Skyrail Rainforest Foundation.
Author contribution statement
AFVP, LS, AKK conceived and designed the experiment, AFVP performed the experiments, AFVP and AKK performed the statistical analysis, AFVP wrote the manuscript, LS and AKK provided editorial advice.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All applicable institutional and national guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. The research was conducted under animal ethics permit A2076 and animal collection for scientific purposes permit WISP10730612.
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