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Aubret, F. & Shine, R. (2010) Thermal plasticity in young snakes: how will climate change affect the thermoregulatory tactics of ectotherms? Journal of Experimental Biology, 213 242–248. 
Added by: Sarina (01 Aug 2010 18:53:47 UTC)   
Resource type: Journal Article
DOI: 10.1242/jeb.035931
BibTeX citation key: Aubret2010
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Categories: Englisch = English
Keywords: Reptilien = Reptiles, Schlangen = Snakes, Thermoregulation = Thermoregulation
Creators: Aubret, Shine
Collection: Journal of Experimental Biology
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Abstract
Climate change will result in some areas becoming warmer and others cooler, and will amplify the magnitude of year-to-year thermal variation in many areas. How will such changes affect animals that rely on ambient thermal heterogeneity to behaviourally regulate their body temperatures? To explore this question, we raised 43 captive-born tiger snakes Notechis scutatus in enclosures that provided cold (19–22°C), intermediate (19–26°C) or hot (19–37°C) thermal gradients. The snakes adjusted their diel timing of thermoregulatory behaviour so effectively that when tested 14 months later, body temperatures (mean and maximum), locomotor speeds and anti-predator behaviours did not differ among treatment groups. Thus, the young snakes modified their behaviour to compensate for restricted thermal opportunities. Then, we suddenly shifted ambient conditions to mimic year-to-year variation. In contrast to the earlier plasticity, snakes failed to adjust to this change, e.g. snakes raised at cooler treatments but then shifted to hot conditions showed a higher mean body temperature for at least two months after the onset of the new thermal regime. Hence, thermal conditions experienced early in life influenced subsequent thermoregulatory tactics; the mean selected temperature of a snake depended more upon its prior raising conditions than upon its current thermoregulatory opportunities. Behavioural plasticity thus allows snakes to adjust to suboptimal thermal conditions but this plasticity is limited. The major thermoregulatory challenge from global climate change may not be the shift in mean values (to which our young snakes adjusted) but the increased year-to-year variation (with which our snakes proved less able to deal).

Key words: climate change, temperature, growth, plasticity, snake
Added by: Sarina  
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