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Background. Reptiles are sensitive to habitat disturbance induced by wildfires but species frequently show opposing responses. Functional causes of such variability have been scarcely explored. In the northernmost limit of the Mediterranean bioregion, lizard species of Mediterranean affinity (Psammodromus algirus and Podarcis guadarramae) increase in abundance in burnt areas whereas Atlantic species (Lacerta schreiberi and Podarcis bocagei) decrease. Timon lepidus, the largest Mediterranean lizard in the region, show mixed responses depending on the locality and fire history. We tested if such interspecific differences are of functional nature, namely, if lizard ecophysiological traits may determine their response to fire. Based on the variation in habitat structure between burnt and unburnt sites, we hypothesise that Mediterranean species increasing density in open habitats promoted by frequent fire regimes should be more thermophile and suffer lower water losses than Atlantic species. Methods. We submitted 6-10 adult males of the five species to standard experiments for assessing preferred body temperatures (Tp) and evaporative water loss rates (EWL), and examined the variation among species and along time by means of repeated-measures AN(C)OVAs. Results. Results only partially supported our initial expectations, since the medium-sized P. algirus clearly attained higher Tp and lower EWL. The two small wall lizards (P. bocagei and P. guadarramae) displayed low Tp and high EWL while the two large green lizards (T. lepidus and L. schreiberi) displayed intermediate values for both parameters. Discussion. The predicted differences according to the biogeographic affinities within each pair were not fully confirmed. We conclude that ecophysiology may help to understand functional reptile responses to fire but other biological traits are also to be considered.
This is a preprint submission to PeerJ Preprints.
Temperatures and body weights of lizards during lab experiments
Preferred temepratures measured and body mass measurements of individuals of the five lizard species used during lab experiments. The first excel folder include the raw data and the second one varialbe explanation.