Water availability and environmental temperature correlate with geographic variation in water balance in common lizards

Andréaz Dupoué, Alexis Rutschmann, Jean François Le Galliard, Donald B. Miles, Jean Clobert, Dale Denardo, George A. Brusch, Sandrine Meylan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Water conservation strategies are well documented in species living in water-limited environments, but physiological adaptations to water availability in temperate climate environments are still relatively overlooked. Yet, temperate species are facing more frequent and intense droughts as a result of climate change. Here, we examined variation in field hydration state (plasma osmolality) and standardized evaporative water loss rate (SEWL) of adult male and pregnant female common lizards (Zootoca vivipara) from 13 natural populations with contrasting air temperature, air humidity, and access to water. We found different patterns of geographic variation between sexes. Overall, males were more dehydrated (i.e. higher osmolality) than pregnant females, which likely comes from differences in field behaviour and water intake since the rate of SEWL was similar between sexes. Plasma osmolality and SEWL rate were positively correlated with environmental temperature in males, while plasma osmolality in pregnant females did not correlate with environmental conditions, reproductive stage or reproductive effort. The SEWL rate was significantly lower in populations without access to free standing water, suggesting that lizards can adapt or adjust physiology to cope with habitat dryness. Environmental humidity did not explain variation in water balance. We suggest that geographic variation in water balance physiology and behaviour should be taken account to better understand species range limits and sensitivity to climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)561-571
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


  • Ectotherm
  • Osmolality
  • Pregnancy
  • Temperature
  • Water loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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