High temperatures turning Australian male reptiles to females
Researchers in Australia have for the first time found evidence of temperature-induced sex changes among lizards in the wild.
For most vertebrates sex is result of certain chromosome combinations, but for Australia's bearded dragon lizard such matters aren't so dependably determined.
Researchers have learned through controlled experiments that for the reptiles temperature can trump genes.
If it gets hot enough incubating babies slated to become males can emerge from their eggs as females.
That, of course, raises concerns about the fate of the lizards in a rapidly warming world, but until the recent discovery there was no proof such a transition was occurring in nature.
Coming to realization that it is happening involved gathering 131 wild bearded dragons from throughout eastern Australia.
The subjects were then tested so their chromosomal combinations could be documented.
In the lizards the letters Z and W are used much in the way X and Y are in humans.
ZZ is the male indicator and ZW the female one.
The team, however found 11 ZZ lizards that were, in fact, ladies.
There is a possibility the bearded dragons will adapt rather than die out, but researchers are working to gain greater clarity about how the animals respond to climate changes.
Check out the slideshow below for pictures of the world's most endangered animals:
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