Environment City slicker lizards evolve much quicker: study

City slicker lizards evolve much quicker: study

A native lizard species found in four Brisbane parks has rapidly changed its body size and shape, researchers from the University of the Sunshine Coast have found.

The researchers examined eastern water dragons – Australia’s largest dragon species — found in four geographically close but not connected parks in Brisbane’s CBD.

With the oldest park dating to the mid-19th century, the research concluded that rapid evolutionary change had occurred in the past 162 years, or 32 “dragon generations”.

“This study provided the first evidence that adaptation to city life can occur at a local scale, with extreme patterns of divergence occurring over ecological time frames within a single metropolis,” says USC’s Dr Frere.

The research team — from USC, Macquarie University and The University of Queensland — found major differences in body size, jaw width and limb length among lizard populations in city parks, compared to populations in non-urban areas.

The genetic differentiation among the city park populations was two to three times greater than the other populations.

“In particular the DNA results showed differentiation among city park populations that was between three and 33 times greater than that found among non-urban populations,” Dr Frere says.

“Our results suggest that city parks create geographically isolated green spaces that can help the diversification of native species.”

You can read more about this research here. Story credit: University of the Sunshine Coast newsroom.

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