Dataset to accompany manuscript "Hot and covered: how dragons face the heat and thermoregulate"
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Regulating body temperature is a critical function for many animals. Ectotherms that rely on the external environment as a heat source make use of multiple behaviours to aid in thermoregulation, including habitat selection, sun-shade shuttling, posture, orientation, gaping, and panting. Non-locomotory behaviours, such as gaping and posture, appear to act in coordination with microhabitat selection behaviours, providing a fine-tuned counter balance to these more overt and costly behaviours, and thus should operate in a negative feedback manner to control behavioural thermoregulation. Recently, preferential orientation toward heat has been shown to occur in bearded dragons given a choice of temperatures within a thermal gradient. Little is known about the sensory drivers, although cutaneous thermosensation is likely involved in evoking thermoregulatory behaviours, since skin temperatures change faster than core temperatures and are not uniform across the body. Since a thermal orientation preference could manifest from a preference favouring either rostral versus caudal thermosensory feedback, bearded dragon lizards were subjected to a series of experiments where heat transfer and thermosensory feedback across the tail and respiratory epithelium were disrupted non-pharmacologically. Changes in thermoregulatory behaviour were then observed to assess the regional thermosensory contributors to thermal preferences as well as isolate and assess coordination between thermoregulatory behaviours. Bearded dragons exhibited reduced orientation preference and enhanced gaping behaviour when the tail was insulated and enhanced orientation to heat when gaping was inhibited. Neither treatment led to changes to selected ambient temperature, indicating that the changes to gaping and orientation behaviours are compensatory responses that support the presence of coordination between thermoregulatory behaviours.