The effect of skin reflectance on thermal traits in a small heliothermic ectotherm

Genevieve Matthews, Celine T. Goulet, Kaspar Delhey, David G. Chapple

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Variation in colour patterning is prevalent among and within species. A number of theories have been proposed in explaining its evolution. Because solar radiation interacts with the pigmentation of the integument causing light to either be reflected or absorbed into the body, thermoregulation has been considered to be a primary selective agent, particularly among ectotherms. Accordingly, the colour-mediated thermoregulatory hypothesis states that darker individuals will heat faster and reach higher thermal equilibria while paler individuals will have the opposite traits. It was further predicted that dark colouration would promote slower cooling rates and higher thermal performance temperatures. To test these hypotheses we quantified the reflectance, selected body temperatures, performance optima, as well as heating and cooling rates of an ectothermic vertebrate, Lampropholis delicata. Our results indicated that colour had no influence on thermal physiology, as all thermal traits were uncorrelated with reflectance. We suggest that crypsis may instead be the stronger selective agent as it may have a more direct impact on fitness. Our study has improved our knowledge of the functional differences among individuals with different colour patterns, and the evolutionary significance of morphological variation within species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-124
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Thermal Biology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016


  • Cooling rate
  • Heating rate
  • Preferred body temperature
  • Reflectance
  • Spectrometry
  • Sprint speed
  • Thermal optimum
  • Thermal physiology

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