“These Lizards Have a Hot Trick to Escape Hungry Snakes”

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The Story

“These Lizards Have a Hot Trick to Escape Hungry Snakes”
by Richard Sima
The New York Times, February 3, 2021

The Pitch

Hi Michael,

I hope you are doing as well as you can be during this stressful time.

I’m pitching a news story for Trilobites about a study published earlier this month in the journal Ecology Letters which has not yet been covered elsewhere.

In a study spanning four decades, researchers discovered that lizards living on snake-infested islands had hotter body temperatures than those on snake-free islands – a difference of 2.9°C. This difference was on top of an overall rise in lizard body temperature of 1.3°C from 1981 to 2019, which is correlated with climatic warming.

The predator-selection for warmer body temperatures may actually help lizards escape the snakes. In a series of experiments tracking the movement speed of lizards – including, in some cases, bringing a wooden racetrack to the field – the researchers found that warmer body temperatures result in faster sprint times; running hot seems to literally allow lizards to run faster. In addition, lizards on snake-filled islands also had longer hind limbs, which also increases their ability to escape predation.

I think this story about how different selection pressures influence animal physiology and, in turn, animal behavior would be of interest to NYT science readers. This study has also potential implications on how further climate change could affect other predator-prey relationships.

A bit about me: I’m a freelance science journalist who regularly writes about life and environmental science for Scientific American, Discover, New Scientist, and Eos.  You can see my portfolio here: https://richardsima.com/portfolio.

Please let me know what you think and if you have any questions!



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