It’s only skin deep: Melanism and thermoregulation in lizards

140_4075.JPG_sLike all ectotherms, lizards gain energy to go about their business by absorbing heat from their surrounding environment. Often lizards bask in the sun to maximize their heat absorption. But there are other, subtler things that can also affect how much heat ectotherms take up, like the color of their skin. In the August issue of Ecology, Susana Clusella-Trullas of Stellenbosch University in South Africa (pictured at left) compared similar species of rock-dwelling South African lizards with one significant difference: the color of their scales. She found that darker-colored melanistic lizards reap thermal benefits from having darker skin, which can translate into more time spent being active in their environments.

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