In ectotherms, the main behavioural option for thermoregulation is the adjustment of daily and seasonal activity to the thermal quality of the environment. While active, ectotherms thermoregulate by shuttling in between thermally differing microhabitat patches. Here, we focused on the question of whether other behavioural or physiological processes could force ectotherms to maintain activity during thermally unfavourable periods, when accurate thermoregulation is impossible. Using laboratory experiments and field data we compared the thermoregulation of male adders (Vipera berus) between two periods in spring when (1) only males and (2) also females and juveniles had terminated their winter hibernation. We found that males thermoregulated actively both in the lab and in the field. Accurate thermoregulation was only possible during the second period because of the low thermal quality of the environment. Male adders maintained a lower mean body temperature in the field than in the laboratory within both periods, and in addition their body temperature during the first period was on average 4 degrees C lower than during the second period. The thermal qualities of the natural basking sites showed a similar pattern. We discuss the results in the context of a potential trade-off between spermiogenesis and thermoregulation, where the benefits of early spermiogenesis coupled with inaccurate thermoregulation are higher than the associated costs. The results support the contention that the earlier spring emergence of the male compared with female adders is explainable by natural selection favouring early initiation of spermiogenesis, and hence sex differences in phenology. (C) 2007 The Linnean Society of London.
Fields of Science
- 118 Biological sciences