Ecological aspects of thermoregulation at high altitudes: the case of andean Liolaemus lizards in northern Chile

We document activity field temperatures, daily activity patterns, and extent of thermoregulation in four species of Liolaemus lizards inhabiting at high altitude (above 3500 m) in the Andes of northern Chile. These four species have similar activity field temperature (Tb near 29 C) despite their being distributed at different altitudinal belts. However, conspicuous differences exist between higher-altitude (L. alticolor and L. jamesi) and lower-altitude (L. islugensis and L. ornatus) lizards regarding extent of thermoregulation and activity period. Some differences in morphology, behavior, and patterns of microhabitat occupancy are also apparent among these four species and are seemingly related to the thermal environment to which they are subjected. In comparison to eight low-altitude Liolaemus species in central Chile (Tb near 35 C) the four high-altitude species in northern Chile have lower activity field temperature. The latter is apparently due to the constraints imposed by the harsh Andean thermal environment, a hypothesis supported by the fact that high-altitude Liolaemus lizards under laboratory conditions demonstrate body temperatures that exceed by 5 C or more, those recorded in the field.
Andes, Liolaemus, Thermal environment, Activity temperature, Thermoregulation