Energetics of bluetongue lizards (Tiliqua scincoides) in a seasonal tropical environment

Keith A. Christian, Jonathan K. Webb, Timothy J. Schultz

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39 Citations (Scopus)


We studied the physiological ecology of bluetongue lizards (Tiliqua scincoides) on the Adelaide River floodplain in tropical Australia to determine the seasonal patterns of energy expenditure and to determine the mechanisms by which seasonal differences were achieved. Field metabolic rates (FMR) were significantly lower in the dry season (37.6 kJ kg-1 day -1; n=9) than in the wet (127.3 kJ kg-1 day-1; n=7). Water flux was also lower in the dry season (6.8 ml kg-1 day-1; n=9) than in the wet (39.4 ml kg-1 day -1; n=7). Measurements of body temperatures (Tb) and movements of free-ranging animals, and standard metabolic rate (SMR) of recently caught animals, allowed a detailed analysis of energy budgets for wet and dry seasons. In the dry, bluetongue lizards expended 90 kJ kg-1 day-1 less energy than in the wet season. Unlike some other lizards of the wet-dry tropics, SMR did not differ between seasons. About 5% of the seasonal difference in FMR was due to lower night time Tb during the dry season, and about 7% was due to lower diurnal Tb. The remaining 88% of the decrease in energy expended in the dry season was due to a substantial decrease in other costs that may include reproduction, growth, digestion and activity. If we assume the animals fed daily and the costs of digestion are taken into account, the estimates are: 14% of the savings result from lower Tb at night, 20% from lower Tb in the day, and 66% result from decreased activity. It is therefore apparent that, unlike some agamid and varanid lizards that use a combination of behavioural and physiological mechanisms to conserve energy when food and water are limited, bluetongue lizards primarily use behavioural mechanisms to achieve a dramatic reduction in energy expenditure in the dry season.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)515-523
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Energy budgets
  • Field metabolic rate
  • Seasonality
  • Thermal ecology
  • Wet-dry tropics


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