“Comptroller Susan Combs’ office, of course, knows doodly squat about lizards,” says a Houston Chronicle editorial on the dunes sagebrush lizard, federally listed as a threatened species. The problem is that the Texas state comptroller’s office is in charge of monitoring the lizard population to make sure the stipulations of a free-market habitat conservation plan are being obeyed.
Four new species of legless lizards have been discovered in California, joining the one species of legless lizard that was previously known in the state.
An NBC News report notes that the four new species were not found in the wilderness, but in some heavily trafficked areas including: “dune bordering a runway at Los Angeles International Airport; an empty lot in downtown Bakersfield, Calif.; a field littered with oil derricks; and the margins of the Mojave Desert.”
The paper describing the four species was published in the journal Breviora and is open access. (The paper was the top link on this page at the time this was posted.)
The reports even include a handy clue for telling a legless lizard apart from a snake. If it blinks, it’s a lizard.
Photo: This legless lizard, which has a purple belly, is among four new species discovered in the state by CSUF scientist James Parham and a research colleague at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at Berkeley. Credit: James Parham, used courtesy of CSU-Fullerton
Two papers in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography* outline two threats that the increased local temperature aspect of climate change makes on lizards.
The first paper is about lizards in South America, but North American reptiles might experience something similar. Bearing live young allowed lizards to occupy colder climates, the paper says, but those species are now limited to those climates. As temperatures rise, those species will be forced either closer to the pole(s) or to higher elevations — severely limiting available habitat.
Another paper in the journal took data on the body temperature of lizards and compared it to the temperature of their environments. It found that it was the temperature of the environment, not the species’ body temperature, that correlated most closely (either positively or negatively) with important life-history factors such as clutch size and longevity.
Because environmental temperature seems to play a bigger role than body temperature (and therefore the lizards’ ability to compensate for environmental temperature), the paper says, climate change can have a “profound influence on lizard ecology and evolution.”
*In this case it is a coincidence that I ran two items from this journal on consecutive days. I received alerts on these papers from two different sources. Go figure. I’ll try to make next week lizard- and biogeography free.
Photo: The viviparous North American species the short-horned lizard, courtesy of the National Park Service.
Alan Templeton, a scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, has been studying collared lizards for decades and has been in love with them since he was a teenager. He found that the lizards only survive as far east as Missouri in an unusual fire-dependent ecosystem. But after a population decline, prescribed burns on these ecosystems didn’t help the lizard’s recovery much. It took landscape-level burns to get the ecosystem back in working order so the lizards could thrive.
Templeton’s paper on the lizard study is on the cover of the journal Ecology this month.