Now it's lizards going extinct due to climate change

From a press release from Villanova University, more worry. I don’t know about the researchers experiences, but my property is overrun with the Western Fence Lizard. I can hardly avoid stepping on them there are so many around the house. Personally, I don’t understand the linkage between warmer temperatures and lizard extinction as I’ve yet to see a lizard who didn’t want to warm itself up in direct sunshine or on heat radiating rocks/concrete/asphalt.

Maybe the researchers never saw the story about Iguanas dying and falling out of trees due to cold this past winter. Anyway, I’ll sure miss Godzilla.

Godzilla - just another lizard at risk from climate change

Study documents widespread extinction of lizard populations due to climate change

International team of biologists, including Villanova University’s Dr. Aaron Bauer, find alarming pattern of population extinctions attributable to rising temperatures.

An international team of biologists has found an alarming pattern of population extinctions attributable to rising temperatures. If current trends continue, up to 20 percent of all lizard species are predicted to go extinct by 2080. The study was published in the May 14th issue of Science.

The researchers, led by Barry Sinervo, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, conducted a major survey of lizard populations worldwide, studied the effects of rising temperatures on lizards, and used their findings to develop a predictive model of extinction risk. Their model accurately predicted specific locations on five continents (North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Australia) where previously studied lizard populations have already gone locally extinct. Based on the predicted probabilities of local extinction, the probability of species extinction was estimated to be 6 percent by 2050 and 20 percent by 2080. As the ongoing extinction of populations is directly related to climate change, limiting the carbon dioxide production that is driving global warming is crucial for avoiding the wave of lizard extinction in future.

“We did a lot of work on the ground to validate the model and show that the extinctions are the result of climate change,” Sinervo said. “None of these are due to habitat loss. These sites are not disturbed in any way, and most of them are in national parks or other protected areas.” While recent global extinctions of amphibians are not directly related to climate change, but largely due to the spread of disease, the ongoing extinctions of lizards are due to climate warming from 1975 to the present.

The disappearance of lizard populations was first recognized in France and then in Mexico, where 12 percent of the local populations had gone extinct since the lizards had previously been studied. Although the lizards normally bask in the sun to warm up, higher temperatures exceeding their physiological limits keep them in the shade, restricting their activity and preventing them from foraging for food. The researchers used these findings to develop a model of extinction risk based on maximum air temperatures, the physiologically active body temperature of each species, and the hours in which its activity would be restricted by temperature. The model accurately predicted the disappearance of Mexican lizards and was then extended globally to lizards in 34 different families on five continents and validated by comparing the predicted results with actual local extinctions.

Data for African lizards was provided by Villanova University professor Aaron Bauer, whose research focuses on the evolution of geckos and other reptiles in the Southern Hemisphere. Bauer, who is the Gerald M. Lemole M.D. Endowed Chair of Integrative Biology, has worked in southern Africa for more than 20 years and has described more than 100 new species of lizards from around the world. Although the predicted extinction risk for the African lizards studied was low, neighboring Madagascar can expect to lose many species and extensive local extinctions have already been documented. “In many parts of the world, lizards are almost certainly going extinct due to climate change before their very existence is known to biologists” said Bauer, whose research is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Bauer believes that most Americans, particularly those in the northeast, where there are few – often inconspicuous – lizard species, are unaware of their ecological importance. However, the disappearance of lizard populations is likely to have repercussions up and down the food chain. Lizards are important prey for many birds, snakes, and other animals, and they are important predators of insects.

The climate projections used to model extinction risks assume a continuation of current trends in carbon dioxide emissions from human activities. Many of the extinctions projected for 2080 could be avoided if global efforts to reduce emissions are successful, but it may be too late to avoid the losses predicted for 2050.


Funding for this study came from grants from the National Geographic Society, National Science Foundation, and a diversity of international funding bodies.


In fairness, a second press release, from AAAS about the same subject issued minutes after the Villanova release at least has some supporting data imagery. See below.

In fact, there was a group of rapid fire press releases withing minutes that hit Eurekalert:

Lizards overrun Eurekalert - click for source


As global temperatures rise, the world’s lizards are disappearing

20 percent of all lizard species could be extinct by 2080, researchers say

This press release is available in Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Finnish. Surveying Sceloporus lizard populations in Mexico, an international research team has found that rising temperatures have driven 12 percent of the country’s lizard populations to extinction. An extinction model based on this discovery also forecasts a grim future for these ecologically important critters, predicting that a full 20 percent of all lizard species could be extinct by the year 2080.

The detailed surveys of lizard populations in Mexico, collected from 200 different sites, indicate that the temperatures in those regions have changed too rapidly for the lizards to keep pace. It seems that all types of lizards are far more susceptible to climate-warming extinction than previously thought because many species are already living right at the edge of their thermal limits, especially at low elevation and low latitude range limits.

Caption: Global maps of observed local extinctions in 2009, and projections for 2050 and 2080 based on geographic distributions of lizard families of the world.

Although the researchers’ prediction for 2080 could change if humans are able to slow global climate warming, it does appear that lizards have crossed a threshold for extinctions—and that their sharp decline will continue for decades at least.of California in Santa Cruz, along with colleagues from across the globe, reached these conclusions after comparing their field studies of the lizards in Mexico with extensive data from around the world. Their research will be published in the May 14 issue of Science, the peer-reviewed journal published by AAAS, the nonprofit science society.

After compiling the global field data, Sinervo and his colleagues studied the effects of rising temperatures on lizards’ bodies, and created a model of extinction risks for various lizard species around the world. Their model accurately predicted specific locations on five continents where populations of lizards have recently gone extinct, and it might inform researchers on how these patterns of extinction will continue in the future.

“How quickly can Earth’s lizards adapt to the rising global temperatures? That’s the important question,” Sinervo said. “We are actually seeing lowland species moving upward in elevation, slowly driving upland species extinct, and if the upland species can’t evolve fast enough then they’re going to continue to go extinct.”

According to the researchers’ global model, which is derived from today’s trends of carbon dioxide emissions from human activities, about six percent of lizard species are due for extinction by the year 2050. Since carbon dioxide hangs around in the atmosphere for decades, the researchers say that this statistic can no longer be avoided. However, they do say that concentrated global efforts to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could possibly avert the 2080 scenarios, in which 20 percent of lizard species are expected to disappear from the planet.

The detailed study notes specifically that lizards that bear live young are particularly at risk of extinction, compared to those that lay eggs. “Live-bearers experience almost twice the risk of egg-layers largely because live-bearers have evolved lower body temperatures that heighten extinction risk,” Sinervo said. “We are literally watching these species disappear before our eyes.”

Sinervo began focusing his attention on lizard extinctions after he noticed an obvious trend during his field work in France. He identified an unsettling pattern of lizard extinctions with French researchers, Jean Clobert and Benoit Heulin, while they were surveying some of their well-documented populations. Disturbed by their findings, they contacted colleagues around the world—Jack Sites and Donald Miles in the United States, Fausto Méndez-de-la-Cruz in Mexico, and Carlos Frederico Duarte Rocha in Brazil—and a global collaboration ensued.

“This work is a fine example of interdisciplinary science and international collaboration, using methods and data from a range of scientific disciplines to improve confidence in the prediction of the biological effects of contemporary climate change, and in particular showing how long-term records and research are so crucial to the understanding of ecological change,” said Andrew Sugden, the International Managing Editor of Science.

“We would never have been able to do this without certain free, online tools like Google Scholar and Google Earth,” Sinervo said. “It took us awhile to pinpoint the appropriate search terms. But once we did, we locked onto key published studies. I was surprised at how fast researchers began sending us data… That’s what happens though: When scientists see a problem, with global evidence backing it, they come together.”

In order to fine-tune their model with this surprising global outpouring of data, Sinervo and his colleagues used a small electronic device that mimics the body temperature of a lizard basking in the sun. They placed these thermal models in sun-drenched areas for four months at sites in Mexico where lizard populations were still thriving—and at sites where they have already gone extinct.

“There are periods of the day when lizards can’t be out, and essentially have to retreat to cooler places,” Sinervo said. “When they’re not out and about, lizards aren’t foraging for food. So we assessed how many hours of the day lizards would have been driven out of the sun at these different locations. Then, we were able to parameterize our global model.”

For the authors, who claim a deep appreciation for these lizards and the important role the reptiles play in the global food chain, these findings are both “devastating and heart-wrenching.” But, they say, hope does remain for the world’s lizards.

“If the governments of the world can implement a concerted change to limit our carbon dioxide emissions, then we could bend the curve and hold levels of extinction to the 2050 scenarios,” Sinervo concluded. “But it has to be a global push… I don’t want to tell my child that we once had a chance to save these lizards, but we didn’t. I want to do my best to save them while I can.”


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Peter Miller

Lizards dying out because of global warming?
This is taking alarmist BS to a new height – even Patchi and Gore would be embarrassed by this all too too obvious grant-seeking ploy.
If AGW was true, then lizards would rank high among the main group of survivors – I have been to some of the hottest places in the world, where the only living creatures appear to be lizards.

dave ward

I’m loosing the will to live…..


Inquiring minds want to know: how’d those lizards survive the last glaciation? Where were the French Lizards 30,000 years ago?
Yeah, but… “[…] Their model accurately predicted specific locations on five continents where populations of lizards have recently gone extinct, […],” so that’s nothing to sneeze at. However, they assume that the warmer temperatures in the predicted locations were due to the increase in CO2, and I’m not ready to buy that assumption.


Not habitat loss, not introduction of invasive non-native competitors and predators and diseases, not pollutants and toxins, but CO2.
Got it.


I dont see the connection between Global Warming and lizard extinction either. I thought that warmth was good for those slimy reptilian creatures.
However this is a finding that has been arrived at after much funding for this crucially important information.
20% of them will be extinct by 2080? Yikes! Now thats serious. We must do something about it. Just like AGW we cant wait around till 2080 to find out if they are correct, or even for the next five years.
We must act now! How much money do they require to stop this?

Al Gore's Holy Hologram

hahaha makes me laugh. Some poxy fraction of a degree made lizards disappear even though they have been around for millions of years and experienced very hot and very cold periods.

Greg Cavanagh

Since this is a peer reviewed document, I’m sure they also carefuly documented the actual rise in temperatures for each of the regions studied over the decade or so.


“Now it’s lizards going extinct due to climate change”
I’m just praying for the day when Anthony posts ” Now it’s [climate scientists] going extinct due to lack of AGW/Climate Change. Faster,please.

R. de Haan

We all know where the money for all this crappy science is coming from:

Fred from Canuckistan

They’ll make any claim of linkage so they can try and hop on the AGW Research Funding Gravy Train.
They’d claim it was due to Maple Syrup if funds were being shoveled off the truck into pancake research.

P Walker

Something about this just doesn’t smell right . I find it hard to believe that a slight increase in temps could trigger a mass extincton of lizards , if that is indeed happening . From my (albeit) limited experience , the hotter it gets , the more lizards I see – believe me , there are tons of lizards here in Coastal Georgia . Nor have I ever seen a lizard in southern Idaho on a cold day . Of course , it’s gotten easy to blame mysterious occurance on GW . Especially if you’re lazy and know you can get away with it .


The weasel words here are “If current trends continue”. That phrase is used everywhere to justify huge and unjustifiable extrapolation of a small data set in a linear fashion all the way to the end of time – or the end of lizards in his case. When I was eight years old my parents worked out that if current trends continued for ten years I would grow up to be about 9ft tall. That didn’t happen either.


This is a ROBUST argument for your congress to approve Cap&Tarde, Version 2.3
It will be approved so your representatives to Cancun’s global warming jamboree can have something to show and to be followed by other countries.
The world can not withstand more dead lizards!

George E. Smith

Well Climate change got to those big lizards; the dunnosirs; so why not the Western Fence Lizard.
Can you just hang on long enough for them to go extinct Anthony.
Sometimes when I read one of those extinction stories; my first reaction is;- “Is that a promise ?”


From the story: “In many parts of the world, lizards are almost certainly going extinct due to climate change before their very existence is known to biologists” said Bauer, whose research is funded by the National Science Foundation.
So, even the lizard species that we don’t know about are going extinct?
Is this Monty Python science?


The researchers, led by Barry Sinervo, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, conducted a major survey of lizard populations worldwide
May I ask how wide is HIS world?, five hundred square feet perhaps?


I am curious about how the computers can “accurately predict” (3 times) anything.
(I assume they mean predict accurately….. . Nitpick key now off.)
They must be able to see into the future, or maybe they have bought a Tardis from the Dr. Who department of the BBC.
Or do the researchers really mean that decades ago they predicted that these lizards would vanish and that now they have indeed done so?
If so, where are the links to the prediction papers?


Gotto ask our friend Vuk if those changes in GMF have not affected some sensible brains…as north magnetic pole is bipolar now…just guessing about some bipolarities..


It seems that all types of lizards are far more susceptible to climate-warming extinction than previously thought…
Oh, no, it’s worse than we thought. At least, it’s one more example of that genre.
You do wonder at some of this breathless analysis. What did the lizards do in the 1930s when it was very hot? Did they survive or did a bunch go extinct back then? What did they do during the medieval warm period?
Also, there’s this:
“species are already living right at the edge of their thermal limits, especially at low elevation and low latitude range limits.”
Doesn’t this just show nature behaving as usual? Any population at the edge of its range limit is always going to be at higher risk. That’s how nature works. Populations push out when conditions are favorable (i.e. they push the proverbial envelope) and populations contract when conditions turn less favorable. It’s true for humans, it’s true for animals. It applied to the Vikings in Greenland (they expanded and then retreated with weather conditions) and it applied to cold-adapted creatures when the Ice Age ended and glaciers retreated. It’s life. It doesn’t require a bogeyman. All creatures at the edge of their range are potentially living on borrowed time. Lizards aren’t known for making sophisticated cost/benefit analyses before they move into a new territory. They just go if it suits them and leave if it doesn’t. Some creatures survive, some creatures die. It’s a circle of life.

Gary Pearse

How did the good Doctor Bauer “document” that the alleged extinctions were due to climate change when even climatologists are growing more unsure that there is climate change. Also, “Science” has probably published elsewhere on several occasions that the tropical and subtropical zones won’t heat hardly at all – its the temperate and polar areas where this heating is supposed to take place in large measure. Maybe the lizards have packed their bags for Siberia, Nunavut and MacQuarry Island. I worked in the dry savannah of northern Nigeria for a couple of years mapping geology and in 40C+ the only creatures I saw in any number were lizards and occasionally lunatics like me.


The fact that the static climate that they seem to want, would cause more extinctions in the long run, is completely ignored.
Don’t they all believe in evolution?
Climate change is the primary driver of evolution.
Evolution is constantly throwing different things out there to see what sticks to the wall. That’s how it works. The fact that some living thing made a bad evolutionary choice, is just part of it.

Henry chance

Wizards lying
Lizards dying.
The green unicorn is gone.


“So, even the lizard species that we don’t know about are going extinct?”
LOL Garry, a perfect example of a bad evolutionary choice.
Obviously that would be an animal that evolved to fill a very small and fragile environment. Any change at all could more than likely drive it to extinction. Only to hopefully be replaced by a better adapted animal.
Or not. Even evolution can’t predict, it just throws it out there.

David L

More stupidity. So I guess nothing thrives in warmth according to the AGW crowd, except poison ivy.


This is nothing to worry about. The world-famous biologist and Heineken prize recipient Prof. Paul Ehrlich has stated in 1981 that the yearly species extinction rate is about 250,000 per year; so that in 2000 half of them were already extinct and between 2010 and 2025 all of them. (Assuming 10 Million species after Myers, quoted by Stork 1997, “Measuring global biodiversity and its decline”)
So the problems of the lizards are simply not anything one should be particularly concerned about. Other species would be happy to survive until 2080.


I’ll gladly donate some of the lizards flourishing in my flower bed that constantly taunt my cat in the front window of my house. There are also some black snakes and salamanders in abundance.


Tell me this boys, how much money would National Geographic fork over if you came up with the wrong answer?

Stephen Wilde

“Although the lizards normally bask in the sun to warm up, higher temperatures exceeding their physiological limits keep them in the shade, restricting their activity and preventing them from foraging for food.”
Assuming the ground based temperature records are wholly accurate with no effect from UHI the observed temperature change is less than 1C in 100 years.
I cannot ccept that a temperature change on that scale is going to have any effect on heat loving creatures such as lizards.
Anyway a temperature rise to a point higher than they like it would only be for a tiny part of the day. They still have plenty of time to forage for food when it cools off a little.
More likely lizard populations are naturally more mobile than the researchers acknowledge and such mobility adds to survival capability.
This report makes no sense whatever.

Henry chance

If you believe in common ancestors we have a problem. If we believe that at some point that came to 100 million species of which 2 million species remain, survival of the fittest takes place and as new species come along, they will adapt. The speckled moths did. The super turbo beak birds adapted.
This gloom and anxiety ridden doom about species loss really tells us people do not believe in adaptation and mutation to generate new species.
Now the lizards deal. Joe Rommm says everlasting droughts. Lizards are in,. Salymanders need to sweat extinction.

Dan Lee

Why not, AGW killed Nessie after all. (Didn’t you post on this one a couple of years ago?)

Dave A

A lizard is not hurt by an average decadal increase since that is not a thing. If high temperatures in the real world hurt them, then isn’t that easy to quantify and measure against real populations? Why the all models and the robot lizards?
Anyone feel like posting real weather data for the study areas?


The Editors and reviewers at “Science”, always predictable as the organ of propaganda of the Scientists Labor Union, promulgate yet another horror story designed to tug at the public heart. What price further Federal funding?


I think Gary Larson could have done a better job with the subject matter in a one – panel cartoon.
Chalk up another entry for the warmlist.

UK John

Not seen a lizard in my backyard ever. Must be too warm!

In Mexico’s Yucatan region, scientists found that the time lizards could be out foraging had disappeared. “They would barely have been able to emerge to bask before having to retreat,” Sinervo adds.
Study co-author Jack Sites of Brigham Young University says high temperatures during the reproductive cycle prevent the animals from eating enough to have the energy to support a clutch of eggs or embryos.
“The heat doesn’t kill them, they just don’t reproduce,” Sites says. “It doesn’t take too much of that and the population starts to crash.”
How on Earth did the lizards of the Yucatan survive the early 1960’s???

Campeche Camp
If it becomes too cold, lizards fall asleep and don’t wake up.
“The results were clear. These lizards need to bask in the sun to warm up, but if it gets too hot they have to move into the shade, and then they can’t hunt for food”…
What do lizards eat?
Do bugs avoid shade?

Henry chance

By 2050 Warming to Doom Million Species, Study SaysJohn Roach
for National Geographic News
Updated July 12, 2004
By 2050, rising temperatures exacerbated by human-induced belches of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases could send more than a million of Earth’s land-dwelling plants and animals down the road to extinction, according to a recent study.
“Climate change now represents at least as great a threat to the number of species surviving on Earth as habitat-destruction and modification,” said Chris Thomas, a conservation biologist at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom.


This is bogus science. Lizards belong to a class of animals that has dwelled on this planet for more than 100 million years, experiencing heat( and cold) much higher than we have now. This has nothing to do with the non-existant AGW.


I love the correlation of the “…being out in the open…” and “…foraging and eating…”.
The only good reason for the little guys (blue-bellies) are out in the sun in the daylight is that they are the Hedonistic sunbathers that they are. When they are compelled to ‘sunbathe’ is the only time they are targets of predators (birds, etc). I always hear them actively doing something in the bushes afterdark (eating, mating, etc… perhaps they are nocturnal?)
Interesting side note on that wiki, the Lymes disease tick has the bacteria that causes it “neutralized”.

Reptilian sexual dysfunction due to rising heat? I think we need to give reptiles a little more credit for procreative capacity. After all, lizards live in every climatic zone except polar ice and tundra. There are boreal lizards, ya know. The critters have been around for 300 million years or so and have managed to self-perpetuate in all sorts of climatic eras.

Bob Kutz

May 13, 2010 at 2:41 pm
I think what they mean to say is that the models they have now show that, given the inputs of population, habitat and climatological data from 30 years ago, and the climatological data through today (since the models still don’t produce accurate “predictions” given the state of the climate in the late 70’s), the models are currently predicting that they would have predicted the extinctions 30 years ago, had they accurate climate models at that time. Clear enough?
Praline;Never mind that my lad, I wish to complain about this Lizard what I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique.
Shopkeeper: Oh yes, the Western Fence-sitter. What’s wrong with it?
P: I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it. It’s dead, that’s what’s wrong with it.
SK: No, no it’s resting, look!
P: Look my lad, I know a dead Lizard when I see one and I’m looking at one right now.
SK: No, no sir, it’s not dead. It’s resting.
P: Resting? Look, I took the liberty of examining that Lizard, and I discovered that the only reason that it had been sitting on its fence in the first place was that it had been nailed there!
SK: No, it probably just pining for the fjords.
P:Pining for the Fjords?
SK: Indeed, that lizard is pining for the Fjords of it’s native land; Svalbard!!
P: It’s not pining, it’s passed on. This lizard is no more. It has ceased to be. It’s expired and gone to meet its maker. This is a late lizard. It’s a stiff. Bereft of life, it rests in peace. If you hadn’t nailed it to the fence, it would be pushing up the daisies. It’s rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. This is an ex-lizard.
(Little comic relief there for dave ward; hang in there buddy, they can’t keep this crap up forever, and my spidey senses are telling me 10 more summers and winters more or less like the last are going to take a serious toll on the credibility of these AGW “scientists”)

CRS, Dr.P.H.

…will they still taste like chicken?


I don’t get this meaning of the word “extinct”:
“Their model accurately predicted specific locations on five continents where populations of lizards have recently gone extinct”
Wouldn’t it make more sense to say “where populations of lizards have recently disappeared”? In order to say they are extinct, don’t you have to lose the entire species in every location, not just a population from a specific area?
Imagine a census worker in Russia reports “whole populations of humans in Chernobyl have gone extinct”.

Ed Caryl

Of course this “study” overlooks the fact that lizards in Mexico, especially the larger Iguanas, get eaten, mostly by people. The heat is getting them, all right, the heat of cooking fires.

Yep, but if this extinction story based on T increase is true, this does not prove AGW right or wrong, does it? And, is it supposed to or is somebody once again harping on something irrelevant in support of their religious beliefs (which does neither have to rely on science nor on logic).
Don’t forget… “9/10 of sea ice is under water, how can the atmosphere cause the melting of the ice”:


“The researchers used these findings to develop a model of extinction risk…The model accurately predicted the disappearance of Mexican lizards…and was then extended globally to lizards in 34 different families…
I see no appreciable difference between this computer model and a crystal ball.


Ralph: “I’ll gladly donate some of the lizards flourishing in my flower bed that constantly taunt my cat in the front window of my house. There are also some black snakes and salamanders in abundance.”
You have either extra tough lizards or a wuzzy cat, Ralph. Until I read your comment, I was going to remark on how the local population of skinks flourished once my neighbour with pesky predatory moggies moved away. Feral felines in Australia have become major nuisances to indigenous fauna and there has been many a move to ban/neuter/keep in-doors the breed. I’ll wager their depredations have done more than an extra couple of degrees of warmth might do to the local lizard stock.


“Tommy says:
May 13, 2010 at 3:21 pm
I don’t get this meaning of the word “extinct”:”
Locally extinct sounds better than “went somewhere else”. Oh, here’s a theory: Researchers check for the presence of lizards by looking on the rocks where they usually sunbath. When it’s warmer, the lizards don’t need the sunbathing to heat up and can go mate in the bushes. Researcher sees no lizards and concludes local extinction. As researchers are always in a hurry because they have to check so many places (and carry amphibian diseases on their boots with them) they simply check “Extinct” on a form and hurry to the next Margherita bar, eh, pristine habitat.

Steve Sloan

I almost died laughing at Anthony’s choice of a leading photograph.

Stephen Pruett

How can lizards even detect the global warming increase vs the typical day/night and day to day temperature changes, which are much larger than any average decadal temperature change? If the authors had just said that an increase in average temperature of 1°C (or whatever it is in the regions they investigated) is causing extinction and had not put this in the context of global warming, this would never had been published. Everyone would have been highly skeptical and would have demanded extraordinary evidence before publishing. Unfortunately, the editors of Science seem more interested in advocacy than in appropriate scientific skepticism.