Richard Forbes

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Biology



Physical Description

1 online resource. Digitized photocopy of typescript.


Leopard lizard, Lizards -- Behavior, Thermobiology




Thermal ecology and movement of the Leopard Lizard, G. wistizeniwere studied at Frog Spring, adjacent to the Alvord Desert, and at various locations throughout the Alvord Basin. Seasonal activity is known to occur from early May to mid-October, but abundance. gradually decreases after late July. During favorable late spring, and summer weather lizards exhibit a bimodal pattern of diel activity with some activity occurring at all hours of the day between 0600 and 1800 H. At other times activity was unimodal. Emergence was apparently largely temperature dependent and did not occur until sand temperature approximated 21°C. Retreat appeared to be temperature independent, and was initiated by exogenous or endogenous stimuli at sand temperatures often above body temperatures acceptable for normal activity. For the period of study, juveniles exhibited diel activity patterns similar to adults, and were found during all hours in which adults were encountered.

Body temperatures of field active lizards, largely affected by the immediate weather conditions, , ranged from 18.6° to 43.4°C. Because of a variety of thermoregulatory response (changes in location, posture, and orientation, color change, burrowing, shade-seeking, and panting), even during unfavorable weather conditions, most body temperatures fell within a narrower range. Nonetheless, the ability of field active lizards to precisely thermoregulate was limited, and the levels of body temperature maintained usually encompassed a broader range than those maintained in a thermal gradient. The mean body temperature of field active lizards during favorable weather conditions, and that of active lizards in a thermal gradient, did not differ significantly, and seemed to indicate a narrow range of body temperature preference. However, prevailing weather conditions were frequently unfavorable, thus limiting the extent of time during which selection of preferred body temperature could occur. Consequently, though activity depended on the attainment of certain temperature levels, G. wislizeni was forced to adapt to a broader range of body temperatures when performing most routine tasks. The necessity of precision thermoregulation is unclear, but apparently physiological efficiency was not greatly diminished over the broad range of body temperatures fiefd active lizards were often accepting.

Relatively speaking, movement in G. wislizeni was extensive. Adult males occupied an average area more than twice the size of adult females and juveniles. Plotted polygons, constructed from sighting points, tended to be elongate. The extent to which lizards occupied a definite home range was uncertain. Adult males , continuously expanding the area occupied, probably lacked a home range. Adult females, demonstrating . little area expansion, perhaps maintained a home range. Territoriality by means of intraspecific display or aggression appeared negligible in G. wislizeni.Adult males did not demonstrate such behavior toward one another . Based on a limited extent of area overlap, adult females may have exhibited territoriality toward members of their sex. Movement per hour revealed results similar to area occupied, with adult males traveling an average distance of nearly three times as great as adult females and juveniles. Greatest distances frequently coincided with peak diel activity. Individual moves were frequent in adult males and juveniles, but infrequent in ~ adult females. Adult female long moves were similar in distance to adult males, but exogenous stimuli perhaps linked with home range maintenance restricted the frequency of such jaunts. Movement in G. wislizeni appeared independent of environmental thermal conditions when body temperature was within the range acceptable for normal activity. Diel movement appeared to be random in the species. Seasonal movement in juveniles, based on dispersion data, appeared directional.

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