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Help with lizard research?

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Help with lizard research?

Postby lizphys » Fri May 13, 2016 12:58 am

Hi!

I'm a grad student studying climate change adaptation in blue-bellied lizards, specifically those from the Sierras. They're such charismatic little critters! Usually at high elevation they're black with vivid blue bellies.

I'm looking for an elevation gradient for my research, preferably outside of any national parks, on the west slope of the Sierras, and climbing up at least 3200'. Has anyone seen a bunch of lizards on a backpacking trip/hike recently?

Thanks!!



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Re: Help with lizard research?

Postby markskor » Fri May 13, 2016 6:36 am

Hi Liz,
Three things:
1) Assume by blue belly you are studying the ubiquitous western fence lizard - Sceloporus occidentalis?
2) Do not understand what you mean by an "elevation gradient"...What exactly are you looking for? Numbers found/seen? Where? Time of year? Elevation? Why west-side? Why outside the NPs?
3) Just an FYI - It is Sierra - never Sierras...sigh... (Damn kids.) Usually I make a point of not answering any post where the poser uses Sierras, but - since it is for science...
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Re: Help with lizard research?

Postby AlmostThere » Fri May 13, 2016 6:47 am

Perhaps she plans to collect some. I see them everywhere- elevation is hardly a factor.
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Re: Help with lizard research?

Postby rlown » Fri May 13, 2016 9:52 am

http://online.sfsu.edu/bholzman/courses ... izzard.htm

I would personally pick a more endangered species to study for about, lets say, 25 years (makes a career)....

Are you going to tag and track them? It'd be really cool if you posted your full hypothesis and intent.

For me, when I see lizards, I think snakes are around.
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Re: Help with lizard research?

Postby lizphys » Fri May 13, 2016 10:56 am

Thanks for the replies!

I'm studying local adaptation in the western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis). Cooler temperatures and longer winter hibernation periods at high elevation pose energetic challenges for lizards. Yet, we've found that genetically related populations that are separated by elevation (say one at 1500 m and another at 2500 m) look quite different. In an environment that should hinder growth, lizards are larger, have larger fat stores, and lay larger clutches of eggs. (And it's not due to differences in food/insect abundance!) I'm trying to understand whether lizard populations can make these changes in response to the environment, or whether they're genetically based.

Either outcome would be important information for researchers who are trying to predict how populations will respond to climate change. If populations can contend with environmental challenges without a change in genetics, they might be more likely to adapt to future climate change. If current patterns are a result of genetic specialization, natural resource management will need to develop new strategies for this, and other more endangered and specialized species.

Our best chance of figuring out how lizards adapt to high elevation is to compare them with a very closely related population that does not appear to have the same specializations. I'm planning to raise hatchling lizards in lab-simulated high and low elevation environments and track their growth, hence collecting in NPs is possible, but fraught with bureaucracy. Better to find something outside of the parks. Also in-depth genetics and ecology research on endangered species is tough because of permitting and scarcity of individuals.

I'm looking for a gradient that [1] starts around 1500 m (lizards are smaller and more brown in color) and goes up to at least 2500 m (lizards are larger and darker) [2] has lizards distributed throughout in relatively high numbers and [3] occurs in a drainage on the west side. I've studied the genetics of the whole species and the eastern group seems to be of different origin than the Sierra group. The drainage is important because the populations (high and low elevation) are more likely to be closely related to each other; I need to have an idea of where they originated and since the tops of the drainages were covered by the Tioga ice sheet ~15,000 years ago it seems likely that they would have just followed the drainage to high elevation.
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Re: Help with lizard research?

Postby markskor » Fri May 13, 2016 11:21 am

Thanks for the clarification.
How exactly can we help you?
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Re: Help with lizard research?

Postby rlown » Fri May 13, 2016 11:21 am

nice reply..

I'd go right up the Mokelumne out of Salt Springs. Starts at ~3943 ft and then up to as far as you dare to hike. Can even go to Round Top or over towards the Blue Lakes.
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Re: Help with lizard research?

Postby Snowtrout » Fri May 13, 2016 2:54 pm

I saw quite a few blue bellies/fence lizards, plus some alligator lizards, in the Mammoth Pool area from 4000-6000' about two weeks ago. They seemed to concentrate around rocky areas like Jackass Rock but some were sunning themselves on the road. Some were quite large, 5-7" from head to end of tail, and fairly black in coloring (something I have noticed is fairly common in these type of lizards when you go higher in elevation). Did not see any rattlesnakes that are also prevalent in the area.

This area might be what you are looking for. The upper road just opened so one can look for specimens from Mammoth Pool Reservoir (3300', access to lake is closed until June 15 though) up towards Clover Meadow (7000'). The drainage is the San Joaquin river, so the area is just south of Yosemite.
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Re: Help with lizard research?

Postby lizphys » Sat May 14, 2016 2:15 pm

[Snowtrout] and [rlown] Thank you for the tips! It's exciting to hear that they are active already and noticeably darker at high elevation.

[markskor] I'm planning a series of trips to locate a suitable study site this summer, and I'm hoping to get some ideas of where to go. If anyone has seen very dark lizards in the high Sierra I'd love to know where so that I can check it out.
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Re: Help with lizard research?

Postby rlown » Sat May 14, 2016 3:42 pm

what the heck. Another link for fun with lots of pics: http://www.wildherps.com/species/S.occidentalis.html
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