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Feeling the heat: Extreme temperatures compromise constitutive innate humoral immunity and skin color in a desert dwelling lizard

Plasman, Melissa, Torres, Roxana
Journal of thermal biology 2019 v.83 pp. 142-149
agglutination, ambient temperature, body temperature, color, ectothermy, habitats, heat, humoral immunity, life history, lizards, males
Environmental temperature, particularly in habitats with extreme temperature fluctuations, may shape selection pressures on life history traits. Especially in ectotherms, temperature affects performance, physiology, and in some species, skin color. Skin color can be a sexual ornament signaling the bearer's ability to resist infections, when only high-quality individuals are able to invest both in high immune defense and elaborate ornament expression. However, how the information content of these sexual traits may vary with environmental conditions has been less studied. Dickerson's collared lizard (Crotaphytus dickersonae) males are blue and have a black and white collar. This conspicuous coloration signals performance and immune response, and is related to body temperature. Here, by maintaining males at higher, lower, and mean environmental temperatures we evaluated whether temperature variation influences color and constitutive innate humoral immunity (agglutination and lysis titers, estimated through hemolysis-hemagglutination assays), and whether extreme temperatures impose trade-offs between color and humoral immunity. We found that at low and high temperature treatments males had lower agglutination and lysis titers, and at low temperature, blue chroma from the dorsum declined and males became greener. Interestingly, at low and control temperature treatments, agglutination titer and blue coloration were positively correlated, whereas high temperatures revealed a trade-off between increasing agglutination titers and displaying bluer skin color. Our results suggest that in the Dickerson collared lizard even short-term variation of environmental temperature affects performance of constitutive innate humoral immunity and the brilliant blue skin color. Particularly, high temperatures may compromise some components of male's immunity and sexual signaling.