Water supplementation affects the behavioral and physiological ecology of Gila monsters (Heloderma suspectum) in the Sonoran desert

Jon R. Davis, Dale Denardo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

42 Scopus citations

Abstract

In desert species, seasonal peaks in animal activity often correspond with times of higher rainfall. However, the underlying reason for such seasonality can be hard to discern because the rainy season is often associated with shifts in temperature as well as water and food availability. We used a combination of the natural climate pattern of the Sonoran Desert and periodic water supplementation to determine the extent to which water intake influenced both the behavioral ecology and the physiological ecology of a long-lived desert lizard, the Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum) (Cope 1869). Water-supplemented lizards had lower plasma osmolality (i.e., were more hydrated) and maintained urinary bladder water reserves better during seasonal drought than did control lizards. During seasonal drought, water-supplemented lizards were surface active a significantly greater proportion of time than were controls. This increased surface activity can lead to greater food acquisition for supplemental Gila monsters because tail volume (an index of caudal lipid stores) was significantly greater in supplemented lizards compared with controls in one of the two study years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)739-748
Number of pages10
JournalPhysiological and Biochemical Zoology
Volume82
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Animal Science and Zoology

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