Lizards perceived abiotic and biotic stressors independently when competing for shade in terrestrial mesocosms

Travis W. Rusch, Michael W. Sears, Michael Angilletta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Hormones such as glucocorticoids and androgens enable animals to respond adaptively to environmental stressors. For this reason, circulating glucocorticoids became a popular biomarker for estimating the quality of an environment, and circulating androgens are frequently used to indicate social dominance. Here, we show that access to thermal resources influence the hormones and behavior of male lizards (Sceloporus jarrovi). We exposed isolated and paired males to different thermal landscapes, ranging from one large patch of shade to sixteen smaller patches. Both the presence of a competitor and the patchiness of the thermal environment influenced hormone concentrations and movement patterns. When shade was concentrated in space, paired lizards competed more aggressively and circulated more corticosterone. Even without competitors, lizards circulated more corticosterone in landscapes with fewer patches of shade. Conversely, shifts in circulating testosterone depended only on the relative body size of a lizard; when paired, large males and small males circulated more and less testosterone, respectively. Furthermore, isolated males moved the farthest and covered the most area when shade was concentrated in a single patch, but paired males did the opposite. Because the total area of shade in each landscape was the same, these hormonal and behavioral responses of lizards reflect the ability to access shade. Thus, circulating glucocorticoids should reflect the thermal quality of an environment when researchers have controlled for other factors. Moreover, a theory of stress during thermoregulation would help ecologists anticipate physiological and behavioral responses to changing climates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-51
Number of pages8
JournalHormones and Behavior
StatePublished - Nov 2018


  • Aggression
  • Corticosterone
  • Movement
  • Resources
  • Testosterone
  • Thermal stress
  • Thermoregulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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