Thermal Dependence of Tongue-flicking and Comments on Use of Tongue-flicking as an Index of Squamate Behavior

Authors


Department of Biology, Auburn University at Montgomery, Montgomery, Alabama 36193, U.S.A.

Department of Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90024, U.S.A.

Abstract

Tongue-flicking rate has often been used as a dependent variable or a component of a dependent variable taken as a measure of responsiveness to chemical stimuli by lizards and snakes. Because temperature has been controlled in most studies, effects of temperature have been largely overlooked. In this study, a constant stimulus, the adult cloacal odor of a conspecific female, was presented to adult scincid lizards (Eumeces laticeps) and temperature was from 15 ° to 35 °C. Tongue-flicking rates by adult Eumeces laticeps in response to cloacal odors of conspecific females were strongly thermally dependent in 20 s and 60 s trial periods. The tongue-flick-temperature curve appears to be roughly quadratic over the entire 15 °-35 °C range studied, with very low rates at 15 ° and 20 °C followed by a rapid rise to maximum tongue-flicking rate at 30 ° and rapid decline to 35 °C.

Presumably, similar relationships apply to other lizards and snakes with modifications related to ecological characteristics such as diel activity cycle and foraging mode, to relative position on a scale of eurythermy-stenothermy, and to taxon. Thermal response curves for other stimuli, especially prey odors, are likely to have the same basic form, but have not been determined.

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