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Lizards facing mass extinction
Date:3/7/2013

Climate change could lead to dozens of species of lizards becoming extinct within the next 50 years, according to new research published today.

Globally it has been observed that lizards with viviparous reproduction (retention of embryos within the mother's body) are being threatened by changing weather patterns. 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 hypotheses that historical invasions of cold climates by Liolaemus lizards one of the most diverse groups of vertebrates on earth have only been possible due to their evolution to viviparity (live birth) 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 climate change, 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 South Pole. 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
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Contact: Jo Bowler
j.bowler@exeter.ac.uk
44-139-272-2062
University of Exeter
Source:Eurekalert

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