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Lizard Population Threatened By Climate Change, Good Or Bad News?

First Posted: Sep 06, 2016 09:04 AM EDT
Spiky Lizard in Warm Environment
Lizards in already-warm environment are likely to be extinct by 2080 because climate change continuously warms the place which is beyond their tolerable range. Pixabay/Gellinger CC0

A new study suggests that lizards are expected to be hit hard by climate change since it changes their regulated body temperature.

Previous studies have already linked global warming to lizards' sensitivity and recently discovered that these creatures may suffer much worse than thought. The study suggests that about 40 percent of the entire world's population of lizards will die by the year 2080. This implies than about 20 percent of lizard species will be extinct by that time.

According to Michael Sears, a biologist at Clemson University and lead author of the study, the prediction of the study was based on the assumption on how easy it was for lizards to find shade. "The thing that those models assumed is that the lizard can find a piece of shade anywhere in the environment instantly if it needed it," as reported by NPR.

Sears and his colleague used computer models and real-life experiments to see how easy and readily available it was for lizards to find the most suitable shade to keep their body temperature within the normal range. To get their data, the team implanted tiny temperature sensors into dozens of spiny lizards located in the New Mexico Desert. "We use these pieces of shade cloth to cool down temperatures in spots to see how the animals react to it," Sears said.

"It's sort of like, if you were out jogging, and there was only one tree and it was a long way to the next one, and it was a hot day - that's a bad environment", according to their study presented in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "But if there were a bunch of trees along the way providing little bits of shade, you'd feel a lot better."

They clarified that predicting a species' future extinction may be affected by a lot of factors like plant distribution, rock outcropping, and other things that may provide shade. But in general, lizards are likely to suffer from increased temperatures if they live in warm places while those in cool places may benefit a little from the warming environment.

To end the discussion, Sears said that "everything in between, all bets are kind of off now. Because what our study suggests is that how bushes are placed in an environment might really impact the lizards just as much as the temperature itself."

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