Understanding variation in the thermal biology of ectotherms and the mechanisms that drive these responses – What are the implications for persisting in extreme climates?
Predictions of the magnitude of contemporary climate change create an imperative to understand the response of ectothermic vertebrates, such as reptiles, to extreme thermal environments. In the wild, reptiles will naturally experience a wide variety of temperatures and environmental extremes, but how much variation or change can they tolerate? Understanding a reptile’s ability to cope with altered thermal regimes is paramount to species persistence, conservation and ecosystem stability.
My research aims to investigate the behavioural and physiological pathways reptiles can respond to novel thermal environments as well as the plastic and adaptive mechanisms that drive these responses. One of my projects intends to explore the relationship of long-term and short-term climate in expressing thermal phenotypes by comparing differences thermal physiology across a model species range (the Jacky Dragon; Amphibolurus muricatus). I also aim to examine the poorly known relationship of thermal traits from parent to offspring and hopefully provide greater understanding to the heritability of thermal preferences. Finally, I hope to investigate temporal variation in thermal physiology and plasticity in the ability of animals to acclimate to different thermal environments. Ultimately, my research aims to integrate several ecological and evolutionary questions to better inform our understanding of how the thermal environment species distributions, range limits and species persistence.
A Jacky Dragon (Amphibolurus muricatus) found at one of my study sites in Kioloa, NSW.
Supervisor: Associate Professor Lisa Schwanz
Schwanz L.E, Hodgson M. J, and May A. (2017), Thermoregulation in variable thermal environments and the challenges of measurement bias. Manuscript submitted for publication