Climate change is predicted to severely impact species distributions and extinction risk in the coming decades. Ectotherms, such as lizards, are of particular concern due to their dependence on environmental temperatures to survive and reproduce. The predictions of extreme weather events and increases in global mean temperatures will affect the ability of these organisms to carry out important functions such as feeding or breeding. While we predict that these organisms will face challenges from climate change, examining whether they show evidence of coping with these changes is critical for determining extinction risk and making conservation decisions. In my research, I use three different treatments which affect access to basking heat to investigate how different climate extremes, predicted to increase and worsen under climate change, would impact various aspects of pregnant viviparous European common lizards (Zootoca vivipara). A 3-hour treatments reflect an unusually long series of cool days limiting thermoregulation, 6-hours reflects the “normal” period of contemporary climate and 9-hours reflects periods of long-duration heat spells. Using this experimental design, I investigated: if females are able to respond to these treatments through modification of their thermoregulatory behavior, if gestation time and offspring phenotype (morphological features) are affected, and if host-parasite interactions change over time in response to these basking treatments, all while considering variation between populations. These topics are critical to address as anthropogenic climate change continues to threaten species persistence.
Speaker: Pauline Blaimont, UC Santa Cruz
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