Lethargic Lizards

Lizard sunbathing

BRRR! Weather report: chilly with a chance of falling LIZARDS?!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Like Florida retirees, tropical lizards LOVE the heat! If temperatures get too low, they get cold-stunned and can’t move. They can even fall right out of trees! Recently, South Florida experienced frigid weather that hadn’t been felt in over TEN years! So what happened to the lizards?

Enter James Stroud and colleagues from Washington University in St. Louis. After the cold front, the researchers wrangled six species of lizards from Florida. In the lab, the researchers recorded the temperatures at which they became cold-stunned. How? By gradually exposing the lizards to colder temps until they were sluggish.

How cold is TOO cold? Lizards tested BEFORE the cold front could handle temperatures as low as forty-three degrees. AFTER, they could go as cold as FORTY degrees!

Tropical weather is becoming more unpredictable these days. But these results COULD mean our scaly friends are ready for the Big Chill!

So that’s the good news for lizards! No word about falling coconuts.

Stroud J.T., Mothes C.C., et al. An extreme cold event leads to community-wide convergence in lower temperature tolerance in a lizard community. Biol Lett 16, 20200625 (2020). http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2020.0625