Effects of a Warming Planet on Tropical Lizards May Not be Significant
A new Dartmouth College study finds human-caused climate change may have little impact on many species of tropical lizards, contradicting a host of recent studies that predict their widespread extinction in a rapidly warming planet.
The findings appear in the journal Global Change Biology.
Most predictions that tropical cold-blooded animals, especially forest lizards, will be hard hit by climate change are based on global-scale measurements of environmental temperatures, which miss much of the fine-scale variation in temperature that individual animals experience on the ground, said the article's lead author, Michael Logan, a Ph.D. student in ecology and evolutionary biology.
To address this disconnect, the Dartmouth researchers measured environmental temperatures at extremely high resolution and used those measurements to project the effects of climate change on the running abilities of four populations of lizard from the Bay Islands of Honduras. Field tests on the captured lizards, which were released unharmed, were conducted between 2008 and 2012.
Previous studies have suggested that open-habitat tropical lizard species are likely to invade forest habitat and drive forest species to extinction, but the Dartmouth research suggests that the open-habitat populations will not invade forest habitat and may actually benefit from predicted warming for many decades. Conversely, one of the forest species studied should experience reduced activity time as a result of warming, while two others are unlikely to experience a significant decline in performance.
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