Field metabolic rates (FMR) and water influx rates (WIR) were measured in Gila Monsters (Heloderma suspectum) in the Mojave Desert of southern Nevada. Gila Monsters had rates of energy use that were less than half of those expected for lizards of their size, including species that live in arid habitats. Free-living Gila Monsters also had comparatively low water flux rates. The annual energy requirements of adult Gila Monsters averaged approximately 3,766 kJ, with two-thirds of the total (2,533 kJ) allocated to activity while above ground, and one-third to resting metabolism (1,233 kJ; mostly while below ground). Unusually low rates of resting metabolism caused relative costs of activity to be high: compared to other lizards, Gila Monsters have among the highest proportional use of energy for activity, relative to total energy use. The average annual water expenditure of adults was approximately 775 mL, and lizards achieved positive mass balance by drinking rain water during the late summer monsoon season. Drinking may be critical in meeting annual water requirements. FMR and WIR differed between seasons but were both highest in early summer (mid-May through June), coinciding with the peak of foraging and breeding activities. Levels of above-ground activity significantly influenced both FMR and WIR, whereas body temperature while burrowed influenced only WIR, and body mass (over the range of 270 to 420 g) did not significantly influence either whole-animal FMR or WIR.
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Vol. 2014 • No. 2