Lizard limbo

SCIENCE SKETCH: a quick look at some new science

The Sleepy Lizard – half lizard, half pinecone* – lives in shrublands and scrublands of southern Australia, where hot, dry summers tend to alternate with cool, moist winters. Researchers have monitored nearly 6,000 of these foot-long skinks over the past three decades.

Overall, the lizards have held steady in numbers. But their survival seems to depend in part on that moist winter weather, which sustains the vegetation they eat. Climate models (ominous as always) say that local winters are going to become hot and dry. What could go wrong?

Sleepy Lizard

According to the calculations of these researchers, two thirds of this seemingly stable population could disappear in the next century, in a worst-case scenario. See the study (including how parasites play into the scheme) in the Journal of Animal Ecology.

*Not really part pinecone.

Bonus material: a David Attenborough clip about Sleepy Lizards (also known as Shinglebacks), which are famous for being monogamous. Be on guard for the tragic ending.

Video by the BBC