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How Tropical Rainforest Lizards May Cope with Climate Change

Paper Reviewed
Llewelyn, J., Macdonald, S.L., Hatcher, A., Moritz, C. and Phillips, B.L. 2016. Intraspecific variation in climate-relevant traits in a tropical rainforest lizard. Diversity and Distributions 22: 1000-1012.

Concerned about the possibility of significant future global warming and its potential impacts on lizards, Llewelyn et al. (2016) tested for intraspecific variation in climate-relevant traits in a tropical rainforest lizard specialist -- the rainforest sunskink (Lampropholis coggeri) -- in order to shed some pertinent light on the subject. More specifically, they tested for four traits that are potentially important in determining a lizard species' climate sensitivity: (1) critical thermal minimum, (2) critical thermal maximum, (3) thermal optimum for sprinting, and (4) desiccation rate.

Conducted in the Wet Tropics Bioregion of Australia, where the five researchers studied 12 populations of L. coggeri, the work revealed "substantial variation both through time and across space in the measured traits," which the authors say suggests that the lizards possess both "strong plasticity and substantial geographic variation." And, therefore, they go on to logically conclude that if physiological lability similar to that observed in rainforest sunskinks occurs in tropical rainforest species more generally, "these several taxa may not be as climatically specialized," and, therefore, "not as vulnerable to climate change, as previously thought."

Posted 5 January 2017