The Bogert Effect and environmental heterogeneity
van Berkel, J.
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A classic question in evolutionary biology is whether behavioral flexibility hastens or hinders evolutionary change. The latter idea, that behavior reduces the number of environmental states experienced by an organism and buffers that organism against selection, has been dubbed the “Bogert Effect” after Charles Bogert, the biologist who first popularized the phenomenon using data from lizards. The Bogert Effect is pervasive when traits like body temperature, which tend to be invariant across space in species that behaviorally thermoregulate, are considered. Nevertheless, behavioral thermoregulation decreases or stops when spatial variation in operative temperature is low. We compared environmental temperatures, thermoregulatory behavior, and a suite of physiological and morphological traits between two populations of the southern rock agama (Agama atra) in South Africa that experience different climatic regimes. Individuals from both populations thermoregulated efficiently, maintaining body temperatures within their preferred temperature range throughout most of their activity cycle. Nevertheless, they differed in the thermal sensitivity of resting metabolic rate at cooler body temperatures and in morphology. Our results support the common assertion that thermoregulatory behavior may prevent divergence in traits like field-active body temperature, which are measured during periods of high environmental heterogeneity. Nevertheless, we show that other traits may be free to diverge if they are under selection during times when environments are homogenous. We argue that the importance of the Bogert Effect is critically dependent on the nature of environmental heterogeneity and will therefore be relevant to some traits and irrelevant to others in many populations.