Seasonal flexibility in organ size in the Andean lizard Liolaemus moradoensis

J Morphol. 2010 Dec;271(12):1440-5. doi: 10.1002/jmor.10885.


The understanding of animal functioning in fluctuating environments is a major goal of physiological and evolutionary ecology. In temperate terrestrial habitats, one of the most pervasive changes in environmental conditions is that associated with the seasonal change along the year. In this study, we describe the pattern of seasonal variation in the size of nine internal organs in the lizard Liolaemus moradoensis from the Andes Mountains of Central Chile. We observed that the size of digestive organs was greater during summer in comparison to other seasons. Dry masses of liver and fat bodies reached maximum values during summer and minimum during spring. We suspect that lowest spring values are related with build-up costs of energetically expensive organs (e.g., digestive, muscle mass) at the end of the hibernation period. Dry mass of the heart and lungs did not show a clear pattern of variation, suggesting that cardiac and pulmonary performance were maintained throughout the year. The dry mass of kidneys was greater during winter than during summer, a result observed in other hibernating lizards but for which there is no clear explanation. Finally, the dry mass of testes showed a maximum value during autumn and a progressive reduction toward summer, indicating that reproduction occurs during autumn. When represented in a bivariate space, acquisition (digestive), distribution (heart, lungs and kidneys), storage (liver and fat bodies), and expenditure (testes) organs generate four clusters. In general terms, observed seasonal pattern of change in organ size is in agreement with those reported for other lizard species that inhabit highly fluctuating environments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chile
  • Digestive System / anatomy & histology
  • Environment
  • Hibernation
  • Lizards / anatomy & histology*
  • Male
  • Organ Size
  • Seasons*
  • Testis / anatomy & histology