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Diverse Weather Conditions Make Lizards More Tolerant to Effects Of Climate Change

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Researchers have found that lizard species used to various weather conditions can handle climate change effects better.The research was also the first to test the Climatic Variability Hypothesis (CVH) which states that species that live in areas with high environmentally variability can – as an acquired outcome – tolerate more environmental changes.

The CVH is a key statement in the Rapoport's Rule, wherein the study's conclusions are based. This popular ecological thinking states that the geographical scope of species' range escalates at higher latitudes. It is believed species that survive and thrive in higher latitudes can adapt better in a wider range of ecological conditions.

James Cook University (JCU) doctoral student and lead author Anna Pintor, together with supervisors Professor Andrew Krockenberger and Professor Lin Schwarzkopf, conducted an analysis of three groups of Australian skinks (lizards).

Findings showed that the lizards that live in areas with greater weather inconsistencies also have wider geological range. These lizards also showed higher tolerance to a broader array of environmental changes.

The results are consistent in all three lizard groups. Krockenberger said there are many studies showing examples of species that fit and don't fit in the popular Rapoport's rule.

"We've shown what is important is the actual underlying mechanism – that species that can deal with a high degree of variability at a single site also end up with more extensive geographic ranges," said Krockenberger from the Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change.

The research was published in the journal Ecological Monographs. The team hopes the findings can aid the scientific community in determining how certain species became ecologically tolerant and which species are at most risks by climate change.

"Understanding underlying mechanisms like the CVH is one way to do that, but we need to do a lot more before we can tell exactly how species will be impacted and how to best help them deal with climate change," said Pintor.

In a 2015 study, researchers studied what would happen to common lizard (Zootoca vivipara) populations if the world climate reaches 2 degrees Celsius prediction by the century's end. The environment's temperature directly affects the lizards' body temperature. This makes them more vulnerable to climate changes.

The 2015 research found if the temperature continues to rise, many populations of the common lizard could vanish quickly.

Photo: Jim Skea | Flickr

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