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Study: Lizard Changes Sex Based on Temperature

posted: 07/02/15
by: Danny Clemens
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Genetically male bearded dragon lizards can change into females based on climate conditions, according to a new study from the University of Canberra.

Study lead author Dr. Clare Holleley observed that extreme temperatures can override sex determination processes otherwise dictated by chromosomes.

Once the sex-reversed females began to reproduce, the gender of their offspring was similarly determined by temperature. "These lizards could trigger a rapid transition from a genetically-dependent system to a temperature-dependent system," Holleley explains.

Surprisingly, the sex-reversed female lizards were actually more fertile than genetic females. "In a way, one could actually argue that dad lizards make better mums," she quipped.

Sex reversal processes in lizards have previously been observed in a laboratory setting, but this is the first observation of wild lizards undergoing the same process. Similar sex changes have also been observed in some species of marine wildlife, including clownfish, gobies and mushroom coral.

Holleley's paper, Sex reversal triggers the rapid transition from genetic to temperature-dependent sex, is published in the current edition of the journal Nature.

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