Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Lizards may be made smarter by warming world

 <i>(Image: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/44434941@N06/" target="ns">Melissa Doherty/Flickr</a>)</i>
(Image: Melissa Doherty/Flickr)

When the heat is on, lizards become smarter – potentially giving them a competitive edge as the world warms.
Previous research has shown that scincid lizards (Bassiana duperreyi) grow larger if their eggs are incubated at higher temperatures.
Joshua Amiel and colleagues at the University of Sydney, Australia, wanted to see if bigger lizards also make better learners, so they incubated nine eggs in cold conditions – 8.5 to 23.5  °C – and 12 in warm conditions – 14.5 to 29.5 °C.
Once hatched, the lizards were put in plastic containers equipped with two hideouts, one blocked off with Plexiglass and the other fully accessible. The researchers, playing predators, scared the lizards by touching their tails with a paintbrush and recorded where the lizards went. After 16 trials, five of the nine cold-incubated lizards still headed for the inaccessible hideout. Just one of the 12 warm-incubated lizards made the same mistake.
"Climate change might not be so bad for these guys," says Amiel.

Journal reference: Biology Letters, DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2011.1161


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