The effect of temperature on digestive and assimilation efficiency, gut passage time and appetite in an ambush foraging lizard, Cordylus melanotus melanotus

J Comp Physiol B. 2004 Mar;174(2):99-105. doi: 10.1007/s00360-003-0393-1. Epub 2003 Nov 4.


In ectotherms, an increase in body temperature increases metabolic rate and may increase rates of digestive processes. We measured the thermal dependence of the apparent digestive and apparent assimilation efficiencies (ADE and AAE), gut passage time (GP) and appetite in Cordylus melanotus melanotus, a medium sized Crag Lizard, which is endemic to South Africa. Trials were conducted at 20, 22, 25, 30, 32 and 35 degrees C under controlled conditions. Trials lasted 14 days, during which, lizards were fed ca. 1 g mealworms per day. Glass beads were used as markers to determine GP at the beginning and end of trials. Faeces and urates were collected daily and oven dried at 50 degrees C. The energy content of egested matter was then measured using bomb calorimetry. ADE and AAE were not affected by temperature for either males or females. The mean+/-SE ADE and AAE were 94.4+/-0.3% and 87.2+/-0.6%, respectively. GP was not significantly different between males and females at any temperature, but decreased significantly with increasing temperature. Appetite was significantly different between the different temperatures measured. The decrease of gut passage time with increasing temperature was expected, since the digestive and assimilation efficiencies are similar over the range of temperatures tested. Lizards are thus assimilating a similar proportion of ingested energy, but at faster rates at higher temperatures. The results indicate that the digestive physiology of this species results in maximum energy gain per meal in environments where food is scarce.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetite
  • Body Temperature
  • Digestive System Physiological Phenomena*
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Transit
  • Lizards / physiology*
  • Male
  • Temperature