Monday, 21 March 2016

Lizards keep their cool

Date: March 15, 2016
Source: James Cook University

A new computer model shows lizards are deliberately trying to manage their body temperatures.

Why did the lizard cross the forest floor? It's an ecological conundrum that James Cook University researchers Mat Vickers and Professor Lin Schwarzkopf have answered with a novel approach.

Their problem was that scientists didn't know why lizards do what they do. If a lizard moves to a sunny spot, its body will heat up -- but is it actually trying to warm up? Maybe it was chasing some tasty morsel of food and had to cross a sunny area to get it? How do you know that what an animal is doing is a deliberate strategy?

Lizards usually use the sun and shade to regulate their body temperature, a process known as thermoregulation. But taking a lizard's temperature is a tricky thing, and comparing that to temperatures across their habitat can be even trickier.

Dr Vickers said the original methodology was a bit grim "Scientists used to shoot the lizards with a shotgun and compare the temperature of the meat with the air. If the temperature was different -- Voila! Thermoregulation!"

Luckily for the lizards, and the scientists, the field has changed somewhat.

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