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Integumental water movement and rate of water ingestion during rain harvesting in the Texas horned lizard, Phrynosoma cornutum

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image of Amphibia-Reptilia

Capture of rainfall on skin surfaces and its transport via capillary channels between scales to the mouth for drinking has been documented in a few agamid (Moloch and Phrynocephalus) and iguanid (Phrynosoma spp.) lizards. Associated behaviors include a postural stance and jaw motions. This experimental study documents that rate of jaw opening and closing cycles is positively correlated with rate of water delivery to lizards' backs and to gain in mass of lizards attributable to drinking. The mean mass of water that can be held by the interscalar, capillary-flow system is correlated with body size, smaller lizards holding a larger percentage of their body mass in the rain-harvesting system. Ingestion mechanisms for water flow from the integumental channels to the mouth surfaces for drinking are discussed, with note being made of the possible roles of a fold of skin at the jaw angle (at the postlabial scales) and tongue actions. Recent hatchlings exhibit rain-harvesting behavior, suggesting its innate nature.


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