Habitat thermal quality for Gopherus evgoodei in tropical deciduous forest and consequences of habitat modification by buffelgrass

Rafael A. Lara-Reséndiz, Philip C. Rosen, Barry Sinervo, Donald B. Miles, Fausto R. Méndez-de La Cruz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Tortoises of the genus Gopherus evolved in North America and have survived major environmental challenges in the past 40 million years. However, this genus now faces multiple anthropogenic threats, such as the introduction of invasive plant species. Buffelgrass (Cenchrus ciliaris) is considered one of the greatest threats to arid and tropical ecosystems, where gopher tortoises inhabit, because the grass displaces native flora and fauna. Modification of the environment as a result of this invasive plant portends an alteration of the available thermal landscape. The aim of this paper is twofold: 1) to evaluate the thermal quality of the primary habitat of Gopherus evgoodei (tropical deciduous forest [TDF], and 2) determine the potential thermal changes due to habitat modification by buffelgrass. First, we obtained data on body temperature of active tortoises in semi-captivity. Second, we measured the operative environmental temperature during 5 years at three sites south of Sonora, Mexico that support G. evgoodei: a) a pristine TDF (Conserved-TDF); b) a forest patch surrounded by introduced buffelgrass pasture (Partial-TDF); and c) an introduced buffelgrass pasture area (Buffel-Pasture). Our results demonstrate that the intact microhabitats within the TDF provide G. evgoodei with high thermal quality at both spatial and temporal scales. However modified habitat by buffelgrass had higher operative temperatures for G. evgoodei than TDF. The thermal quality of the sites disturbed with buffelgrass can exceed the thermal requirements of G. evgoodei by up to 25 °C. Finally, we discussed potential collateral effects of habitat modification by invasion by buffelgrass.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103192
JournalJournal of Thermal Biology
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • Alamos-Sonora
  • Exotic pasture
  • Operative thermal models
  • Testudinidae
  • Thermal niche
  • Tropical environment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Developmental Biology


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