Lizards facing mass extinction, new research suggests

Mar 06, 2013
Lizards facing mass extinction
Dozens of species of lizards could become extinct within the next 50 years.

(Phys.org) —Climate change could lead to dozens of species of lizards becoming extinct within the next 50 years, according to new research.

Globally it has been observed that lizards with viviparous reproduction (retention of within the mother's body) are being threatened by changing .

A new study suggests that the evolution of this mode of reproduction, which is thought to be a key successful adaptation, could, in fact, be the species' downfall under global warming.

Researchers from the University of Exeter and the University of Lincoln investigated the that historical of by Liolaemus lizards – one of the most diverse groups of on earth – have only been possible due to their evolution to viviparity () from oviparity (laying eggs). Remarkably, however, once these species evolve viviparity, the process is mostly irreversible and they remain restricted to such cold climates.

By analysing this evolutionary transition in the lizards' reproductive modes and projecting the future impact of , the scientists discovered that increasing temperatures in the species' historically cold habitats would result in their areas of distribution being significantly reduced. As a consequence, if global warming continues at the same rate, viviparous lizards are facing extinction in the next few decades.

Dr Dave Hodgson, from Biosciences at the University of Exeter, said: "Climate change must not be underestimated as a threat to modern patterns of biodiversity. Our work shows that lizard species which birth live young instead of laying eggs are restricted to cold climates in South America: high in the Andes or towards the . As the climate warms, we predict that these special lizard species will be forced to move upwards and towards the pole, with an increased risk of extinction."

Lead author Dr Daniel Pincheira-Donoso from the University of Lincoln's School of Life Sciences is one of the few people in the world who works on the ecology and evolution of these lizard species. He said: "Lizards' reproduction is largely linked to climatic temperatures and viviparous species are usually found in cold environments. When reptiles initially moved to colder areas they needed to evolve emergency measures to succeed in these harsh places, and we believe viviparity is one of these key measures. However, this transition is mostly one-directional and unlikely to be reversed. Rapid changes in the environment's temperature would demand rapid re-adaptations to secure the species' survival. Through the research we found that over the next 50 years nearly half of the area where these species occur may disappear, causing multiple extinctions due to climate change."

Overall the conclusion is that although viviparity allowed lizards in the past to invade and adapt to live in cold environments, and was therefore a key trait for evolutionary success, it will now ultimately lead to multiple events of extinction.

Dr Pincheira-Donoso said: "These are one of the most diverse groups of animals, and are able to adapt to remarkably diverse conditions. Unfortunately, a reduction in cold environments will reduce their areas of existence, which means that their successful evolutionary history may turn into a double-edged sword of adaptation. Their extinctions would be an atrocious loss to biodiversity."

The paper 'The evolution of viviparity opens opportunities for a lizard radiation but drives it into a climatic cul-de-sac' is published in the peer-reviewed journal Global Ecology and Biogeography and was funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

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User comments : 6

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Sean_W
2 / 5 (7) Mar 06, 2013
What? No computer model of lizards per square mile and such?
mememine69
1.5 / 5 (11) Mar 06, 2013
Climate blamers abuse the DOOMED children of the future!
Science didn't lie, YOU climate blame believers did!
Only you remaining fear mongers of climate blame belief and you lazy copy and paste news editors and you pandering politicians are the ONLY ones saying it WILL be an actual crisis. Science only says it "could be" a crisis and has NEVER said it is imminent, only "likely". Not one IPCC warning is without "maybes" proving it is in fact a total exaggeration. Former believers are better planet lovers. The rest of you just hate our kids.
Science didn't commit the climate change hoax, YOU did Doomer!
Anda
1.7 / 5 (3) Mar 06, 2013
There's too much anger in you @mememine, beware the dark side.

Regarding the article, warm climate is known to benefit cold blood animals, so I don't see their point... less viviparous? more oviparous... and when the tendency reverses the contrary. Lizards will be ok.
Maggnus
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 06, 2013
Climate blamers abuse the DOOMED children of the future!
Science didn't lie, YOU climate blame believers did!
Only you remaining fear mongers of climate blame belief and you lazy copy and paste news editors and you pandering politicians are the ONLY ones saying it WILL be an actual crisis. Science only says it "could be" a crisis and has NEVER said it is imminent, only "likely". Not one IPCC warning is without "maybes" proving it is in fact a total exaggeration. Former believers are better planet lovers. The rest of you just hate our kids.
Science didn't commit the climate change hoax, YOU did Doomer!


WoW! You managed to string togeather a whole boatload of sentences! Bet your moma be right proud of you! Oh and look a you-you even mamaged to include a word with more than 2 syllabels! Makes you look so smart!
Maggnus
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 06, 2013
What? No computer model of lizards per square mile and such?


Oh and look! Yet another one toothed wonder from the lost tribe of Imbecelliac! Lose your medicine again Sean?
antigoracle
1 / 5 (3) Mar 07, 2013
And... in a flash ... MagganusTurd is here spewing insults.
Take a pill dude. You are well on your way of having a stroke and so be the first true victim of global warming.

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