Audio Book News: May 2010 Archives

Lizards getting too Hot... for our audio book

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I noticed this recent report and, since we're now working on Part Two of Rockford's Rock Opera audio book, featuring some scaly characters, I thought I ought to mention it...

One-fifth of the world's lizard species, including iguanas, geckos, skinks and snakes, could disappear in a few decades unless steps are taken to curb global warming, an international team of scientists has warned.

The biologists, led by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Ohio University, say they've already recorded alarming die-offs of lizards in Mexico, France and Madagascar.

The weather in these regions, including Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, has become too hot for many lizards to handle, said Donald Miles, an OU evolutionary biologist.

Stressed by the heat, the lizards spend too much time seeking shelter instead of food. The heat also might affect their ability to reproduce, Miles said.

"What's surprising is how rapidly this can occur," Miles said. "In France, we've seen the decline of common lizard populations in the span of a decade."

The study puts lizards, including some in Ohio, on a growing list of animals and plants threatened by climate change. Biologists warn that each species plays a role, and that losing even one animal or plant carries unknown consequences.

Federal officials declared polar bears "threatened" in May 2008 because of the rapid loss of Arctic sea ice. Rising mountain temperatures also have made whitebark pines vulnerable to parasite beetles, which might wipe out the tree species, said Andrew Wetzler, director of wildlife programs for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"As the world warms and the temperature rises, many animals' habitat essentially shrinks," Wetzler said. "It also means that other animals are showing up in places where they've never been before, and that can be particularly alarming."

UC-Santa Cruz biologist Barry Sinervo developed a model that ties lizard die-offs to rising temperatures and predicts where extinctions are most likely to occur.

The study is based in part on a new survey of 48 species of spiny lizards at 200 sites in Mexico that other researchers studied and reported on from 1975 to 1995. Sinervo and Miles found that 12 percent of the species at those sites had gone extinct.

The team reports that 6 percent of lizard species will disappear by 2050 and, if nothing is done, 20 percent will die out by 2080.

Their research, published today in the journal Science, accurately predicted vanishing populations of lizards recorded by biologists in North and South America, Europe, Africa and Australia.

"It is truly global and includes all the families of lizards," Sinervo wrote in an e-mail. "It is bad no matter where you look."

Miles said global warming could kill off the eastern fence lizard, Sceloporus undulatus, a 5-inch reptile found in southern Ohio forests. Timber rattlesnakes and northern copperhead snakes also could disappear.

Though people may not shed a tear over the loss of a lizard or venomous snake, each species is an integral part of Ohio's wildlife and ecology, said Peter Niewiarowski, a University of Akron evolutionary biologist.

Fence lizards, for example, prey on insects such as beetles, flies, grasshoppers and moths, many of which are considered pests. Snakes feed on mice and other rodents.

Lizards and snakes often are food for eagles, hawks and other predators. Their loss could create consequences that are impossible to predict, Niewiarowski said.

"You can't be concerned about lizards in isolation from other animals," he said. "They are critical to the overall functioning of the food web."

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This page is a archive of entries in the Audio Book News category from May 2010.

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