Temporal trade-off between territorial and thermoregulatory behaviors of a generalist lizard in a dry forest

Published: 15 December 2023| Version 2 | DOI: 10.17632/582v9zkbdz.2


Seasonally dry tropical forest lizards tend to decrease their diurnal activity during the dry season as microclimates become hot and dry, but food availability decreases. The lizards then take refuge in the shade of leaf litter. However, some lizard species remain active in sunny spots defending their territory against intruders and courting females. This poses a trade-off between self-maintenance and reproduction that has been explored in semi-aquatic animals, but not in terrestrial ones. We evaluated the dynamics of this trade-off as a function of % tree cover, microclimatic temperature and the presence of conspecific intruders in the territory during the dry season. We found that the lizards evaluated prioritized the defense of their territory by flexing from sunny sites over thermoregulatory behaviors by sheltering in shady spots. The lizards spent more time performing territorial behaviors than thermoregulatory behaviors in more uncovered and thus warmer territories, as well as in the presence of intruders. We argue that the prioritization of territorial over thermoregulatory behaviors during the dry season poses sublethal effects, which could be exacerbated by projected habitat warming.



Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Morelos, Centro de Investigacion en Biodiversidad y Conservacion


Animal Behavior, Territoriality, Animal Ecology, Conservation Behavior, Thermoregulation in Animals, Dry Tropical Forest Ecosystem, Habitat, Plant Ecophysiology


Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología

National Scholarship Program 2018–2022 (CVU: 664584)