The Effect of Hydration State on Voluntary Maximum Temperature of a desert reptile, Heloderma suspectum.
An organism's ability to maintain optimal body temperature is extremely important for sustaining physiological and behavioral processes necessary for survival. However, like other physiological systems, thermobiology can be influenced by the availability of resources. Water is a vital resource that has profound implications on many aspects of biological function, including thermoregulatory pathways. However, water availability has a tendency fluctuate within any given ecosystem. While several studies have investigated the influence of water availability on a range of thermoregulatory pathways, very little attention has been given to its influence on Voluntary Maximum Temperature (VMT). We investigated the effects of dehydration on Voluntary Maximum Temperature in a captive population of Gila monsters (Heloderma suspectum). Gila monsters are large-bodied, desert dwelling lizards that experience periods of seasonal dehydration. Additionally, the effects of dehydration on their physiology and behavior have been extensively studied. We hypothesized that dehydration would reduce VMT. As expected, there was a significant decrease in exit temperature as blood osmolality increased. This is presumed to be in an effort to decrease water loss. Adaptations that allow desert dwelling organisms to conserve water are highly advantageous due to seasonal water constraints. Our findings offer insight on how the behavior of these organisms may change in response to changes in climate.