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Lizard blizzard survivors tell story of natural selection

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An unusually cold winter in the U.S. in 2014 took a toll on the green anole lizard, a tree-dwelling creature common to the southeastern United States. A new study offers a rare view of natural selection in this species, showing how the lizard survivors at the southernmost part of their range in Texas came to be more like their cold-adapted counterparts further north.

An unusually cold winter in the U.S. in 2014 took a toll on the green anole lizard, a tree-dwelling creature common to the southeastern United States. A new study offers a rare view of natural selection in this species, showing how the lizard survivors at the southernmost part of their range in Texas came to be more like their cold-adapted counterparts further north.

The study is reported in the journal Science.         

“We were able to track natural selection at the level of the whole organism, but also at the level of gene sequence and gene expression,” said University of Illinois postdoctoral researcher Shane Campbell-Staton, who led the new research. “I think this is a really strong and clear story about biological responses to extreme weather events.”

It’s rare for a biologist to get such an intimate view of natural selection in animals in the wild.

Read more at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Image: University of Illinois animal biology professor Julian Catchen, left, postdoctoral researcher Shane Campbell-Staton and their colleagues found genetic, regulatory and physiological signatures of natural selection in green anole lizards that survived a bout of extremely cold weather in South Texas. (Credit: Photo by L. Brian Stauffer)