Physiological and regulatory underpinnings of geographic variation in reptilian cold tolerance across a latitudinal cline

Shane C. Campbell-Staton, Anna Bare, Jonathan B. Losos, Scott V. Edwards, Zachary A. Cheviron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Understanding the mechanisms that produce variation in thermal performance is a key component to investigating climatic effects on evolution and adaptation. However, disentangling the effects of local adaptation and phenotypic plasticity in shaping patterns of geographic variation in natural populations can prove challenging. Additionally, the physiological mechanisms that cause organismal dysfunction at extreme temperatures are still largely under debate. Using the green anole, Anolis carolinensis, we integrate measures of cold tolerance (CTmin), standard metabolic rate, heart size, blood lactate concentration and RNAseq data from liver tissue to investigate geographic variation in cold tolerance and its underlying mechanisms along a latitudinal cline. We found significant effects of thermal acclimation and latitude of origin on variation in cold tolerance. Increased cold tolerance correlates with decreased rates of oxygen consumption and blood lactate concentration (a proxy for oxygen limitation), suggesting elevated performance is associated with improved oxygen economy during cold exposure. Consistent with these results, co-expression modules associated with blood lactate concentration are enriched for functions associated with blood circulation, coagulation and clotting. Expression of these modules correlates with thermal acclimation and latitude of origin. Our findings support the oxygen and capacity-limited thermal tolerance hypothesis as a potential contributor to variation in reptilian cold tolerance. Moreover, differences in gene expression suggest regulation of the blood coagulation cascade may play an important role in reptilian cold tolerance and may be the target of natural selection in populations inhabiting colder environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2243-2255
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 2018


  • Anolis
  • RNAseq
  • adaptation
  • metabolism
  • physiology
  • thermal tolerance


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