Skip to main content
No Access

The Behavior-Physiology Nexus: Behavioral and Physiological Compensation Are Relied on to Different Extents between Seasons

Centre for Invasion Biology, Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University, Private Bag X1, Matieland 7602, South Africa

Environmental variability occurring at different timescales can significantly reduce performance, resulting in evolutionary fitness costs. Shifts in thermoregulatory behavior, metabolism, and water loss via phenotypic plasticity can compensate for thermal variation, but the relative contribution of each mechanism and how they may influence each other are largely unknown. Here, we take an ecologically relevant experimental approach to dissect these potential responses at two temporal scales: weather transients and seasons. Using acclimation to cold, average, or warm conditions in summer and winter, we measure the direction and magnitude of plasticity of resting metabolic rate (RMR), water loss rate (WLR), and preferred body temperature (Tpref) in the lizard Cordylus oelofseni within and between seasons. In summer, lizards selected lower Tpref when acclimated to warm versus cold but had no plasticity of either RMR or WLR. By contrast, winter lizards showed partial compensation of RMR but no behavioral compensation. Between seasons, both behavioral and physiological shifts took place. By integrating ecological reality into laboratory assays, we demonstrate that behavioral and physiological responses of C. oelofseni can be contrasting, depending on the timescale investigated. Incorporating ecologically relevant scenarios and the plasticity of multiple traits is thus essential when attempting to forecast extinction risk to climate change.