Lizard species have diverse behavioral and physiological responses to thermo-environmental conditions, which allow them to inhabit a broad range of latitudes and elevations. Because the availability of suitable thermal resources is limited and more variable at high-elevation environments than at lower elevations, we expect high-elevation lizards to be constrained in their thermoregulation relative to lizards at lower elevations by the fewer available thermal resources to reach optimal temperatures (colder environment). We studied the thermal biology of an endemic and Critically Endangered lizard, Liolaemus aparicioi, to assess its thermal responses along a 1000 m elevational gradient in La Paz Valley from May to August of 2015 (dry season). We took field body and microhabitat temperatures at capture sites (substrate and air above ground), and body size (snout-vent length and mass) of individuals at Taypichullo (3000 m asl), Gran Jardín de la Revolución Municipal Park (3500 m asl), and Taucachi (4000 m asl) localities. Operative temperatures were taken from calibrated models deployed in different available microhabitats. Preferred temperatures and thermal tolerance limits were determined in laboratory settings for lizards from each locality. Field body, microhabitat, and operative temperatures decreased with increasing elevation and differed between sexes. Lizards at the high elevation locality had the lowest thermoregulatory efficiency as compared with the mid and lower elevation localities. In laboratory measurements, while the preferred temperatures varied between sexes, pooled preferred temperatures and thermal tolerances were similar in all localities. Although thermal resources at high elevation can limit thermoregulatory possibilities in L. aparicioi, behavioral microhabitat use, time allocated to thermoregulation, and physiological adjustments seem to be possible strategies to counteract thermal costs along elevational gradients.
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