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Thermal constraints of refuge use by Schreiber's green lizards, Lacerta schreiberi

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Prey should balance cost and benefits when deciding optimal refuge use. In ectotherms, such as lizards, body temperature can decrease in cold refuges, which has negative effects on physiological and locomotor performance. Thus, refuge use of ectotherms should be influenced by the thermal environment as well as by the body size-dependent thermal inertia of each individual. We simulated predator attacks to Schreiber's Green lizards (Lacerta schreiberi) and analyzed their refuge use. Results indicated that temperatures outside and inside a refuge had opposite effects on refuge use decisions. Thus, when initial external temperatures were higher and lizards had higher thermal inertia, lizards could spend longer times inside refuges before reaching a 'critical' low body temperature. However, when refuge temperature was low lizards did not decrease refuge use. If low refuge temperatures increased risk upon emerging because lizards had lower escape performance, lizards would need to compensate by remaining in a refuge for longer to scan the surroundings before emerging to ensure that the risk of a new attack decreased. Therefore, when deciding refuge use, L. schreiberi lizards seem to consider physiological costs of being at low temperatures and also the risk of emerging with low escape performance.

Affiliations: 1: Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, CSIC, José Gutiérrez Abascal 2, 28006 Madrid, Spain;, Email:; 2: Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, CSIC, José Gutiérrez Abascal 2, 28006 Madrid, Spain


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