Body size clines in Sceloporus lizards: Proximate mechanisms and demographic constraints

Michael W. Sears, Michael J. Angilletta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


Although most species of animals examined to date exhibit Bergmann's clines in body size, squamates tend to exhibit opposing patterns. Squamates might exhibit reversed Bergmann's clines because they tend to behaviorally regulate their body temperature effectively; the outcome of this thermoregulation is that warmer environments enable longer daily and annual durations of activity than cooler environments. Lizards of the genus Sceloporus provide an opportunity to understand the factors that give rise to contrasting thermal clines in body size because S. undulatus exhibits a standard Bergmann's cline whereas S. graciosus exhibits a reverse Bergmann's cline. Interestingly, rapid growth by individuals of both species involves adjustments of physiological processes that enable more efficient use of food. Patterns of adult body size are likely the evolutionary consequence of variation in juvenile survivorship among populations. In S. undulatus, delayed maturation at a relatively large body size is exhibited in cooler environments where juveniles experience higher survivorship, resulting in a Bergmann's cline. In S. graciosus, high juvenile survivorship is not consistently found in cooler environments, resulting in no cline or a reversed Bergmann's cline, i.e., geographic patterns in body size aren't necessarily produced by natural selection. Thus, discerning the mechanistic links between the thermal physiology of an organism and environment-specific rates of mortality will be critical to understanding the evolution of body size in relation to environmental temperature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)433-442
Number of pages10
JournalIntegrative and comparative biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Plant Science


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