Date of Award

Summer 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Dr. James Watling


Tropical ectotherms are considered particularly sensitive to changes in the thermal environment from climate change and habitat alteration. Understanding how such species’ thermal physiology relates to their habitat associations in thermally heterogeneous landscapes may help us predict responses and develop sound conservation strategies for the future. We conducted a mark-recapture study of three terrestrial breeding anuran species (Pristimantis medemi, P. savagei, P. frater) in adjacent forest and anthropogenic clearings at field sites spread across seven elevations (415-1350 m asl) in the Colombian Andes. We also performed thermal preference and critical thermal maximum assays in the lab to investigate the relationship between Pristimantis thermal physiology and habitat associations at each elevation. Thermal traits did not differ based on the habitat or elevation occupied; yet as elevation increased, two of three species became more abundant in clearings than in forest. We found that some species track their thermal preference to warmer clearings with increasing elevation. In essence, upland anthropogenic clearings are perceived as higher quality thermal habitat by two species in our study. Our findings suggest the importance of thermal heterogeneity and human disturbed environments for the conservation of thermally sensitive species.

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