Why tropical forest lizards are vulnerable to climate warming

Raymond B. Huey, Curtis A. Deutsch, Joshua J. Tewksbury, Laurie J. Vitt, Paul E. Hertz, Héctor J.Álvarez Pérez, Theodore Garland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

567 Scopus citations

Abstract

Biological impacts of climate warming are predicted to increase with latitude, paralleling increases in warming. However, the magnitude of impacts depends not only on the degree of warming but also on the number of species at risk, their physiological sensitivity to warming and their options for behavioural and physiological compensation. Lizards are useful for evaluating risks of warming because their thermal biology is well studied. We conducted macrophysiological analyses of diurnal lizards from diverse latitudes plus focal species analyses of Puerto Rican Anolis and Sphaerodactyus. Although tropical lowland lizards live in environments that are warm all year, macrophysiological analyses indicate that some tropical lineages (thermoconformers that live in forests) are active at low body temperature and are intolerant of warm temperatures. Focal species analyses show that some tropical forest lizards were already experiencing stressful body temperatures in summer when studied several decades ago. Simulations suggest that warming will not only further depress their physiological performance in summer, but will also enable warm-adapted, open-habitat competitors and predators to invade forests. Forest lizards are key components of tropical ecosystems, but appear vulnerable to the cascading physiological and ecological effects of climate warming, even though rates of tropical warming may be relatively low.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1939-1948
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume276
Issue number1664
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 7 2009
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

Keywords

  • Body temperature
  • Climate warming
  • Heat stress
  • Operative temperature

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