Intense nocturnal warming alters growth strategies, colouration and parasite load in a diurnal lizard

In the past decades, nocturnal temperatures have been playing a disproportionate role in the global warming of the planet. Yet, they remain a neglected factor in studies assessing the impact of global warming on natural populations. Here, we question whether an intense augmentation of nocturnal temperatures is beneficial or deleterious to ectotherms. Physiological performance is influenced by thermal conditions in ectotherms and an increase in temperature by only 2 degrees C is sufficient to induce a disproportionate increase in metabolic expenditure. Warmer nights may expand ectotherms' species thermal niche and open new opportunities for prolonged activities and improve foraging efficiency. However, increased activity may also have deleterious effects on energy balance if exposure to warmer nights reduces resting periods and elevates resting metabolic rate. We assessed whether warmer nights affected an individual's growth, dorsal skin colouration, thermoregulation behaviour, oxidative stress status and parasite load by exposing yearling common lizards (Zootoca vivipara) from four populations to either ambient or high nocturnal temperatures for approximately 5 weeks. Warmer nocturnal temperatures increased the prevalence of ectoparasitic infestation and altered allocation of resources towards structural growth rather than storage. We found no change in markers for oxidative stress. The thermal treatment did not influence thermal preferences, but influenced dorsal skin brightness and luminance, in line with a predicted acclimation response in colder environments to enhance heat gain from solar radiation. Altogether, our results highlight the importance of considering nocturnal warming as an independent factor affecting ectotherms' life history in the context of global climate change.


colouration change, ectotherms, energetic balance, nocturnal temperatures, oxidative stress

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Rutschmann Alexis, Dupoue Andreaz, Miles Donald B., Megia-Palma Rodrigo, Lauden Clemence, Richard Murielle, Badiane Arnaud, Rozen-Rechels David, Brevet Mathieu, Blaimont Pauline, Meylan Sandrine, Clobert Jean, Le Galliard Jean-Francois (2021). Intense nocturnal warming alters growth strategies, colouration and parasite load in a diurnal lizard. Journal Of Animal Ecology. 90 (8). 1864-1877.,

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