Western Fence Lizards @Puget Sound

Western Fence Lizards (Sceloporus occidentalis) are super abundant and common lizards throughout their range in the Western USA. They are found from sea level to high elevations in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and they are even adapted to live in urban environments. Here in Western Washington, the story is quite different. They seem to be really picky about where they will live , and you can mostly only find them at pristine coastline habitats around the Puget Sound and Hood Canal that are south-facing where they can get a lot of sun exposure. They probably had a much broader distribution in the past, but development of coastlines seems to have wiped out a lot of suitable habitat. The populations that we find today are highly fragmented and scattered around the tiny bits of beaches that are still available. There are very few historical records for these lizards in museum collections from this region, but a couple of important specimens are from places that are completely urbanized with no sign of lizards today (like downtown Seattle). This suggests that more habitats used to be available, even though they are gone today.

A Western Fence Lizard enjoying a sunny day on the beach in the Puget Sound, Ketron Island.

Congratulations Shanelle!

Congratulations to undergraduate researcher Shanelle Wikramanayake on her recent graduation from UW! Shanelle conducted independent research on the conservation genetics of an endemic lizard in Sri Lanka, the rough-nosed horned lizard (Ceratophora aspera). Shanelle is moving to California to attend graduate school at California State University Northridge where she will work on the evolutionary biology and behavior of red-eyed tree frogs with Dr. Jeanne Roberston. We already miss Shanelle in Seattle, but we’re also excited for her future work in her new lab!

Shanelle featured on the announcement for the 2019 UW Undergraduate Research Symposium

Reptile & amphibian illustrations

Simone Des Roches, a herpetologist and Postdoctoral Fellow in the UW School of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences, was recently featured in a Burke Museum Q&A about her biological illustration work. Simone is producing a series of biological illustrations depicting the reptiles and amphbians of Washington State. The illustrations focus on presenting the diversity found within each species. You can read the full story and see more of the illustrations here:
https://www.burkemuseum.org/news/qa-biological-illustrator

An example of Simone’s illustrations showing geographic variation in Western Fence Lizards (Sceloporus occidentalis).

Frog conservation work

Recent lab graduate Itzue Caviedes-Solis recently published a new research article on frog conservation in the Mexican Highlands. The research was picked up by “Cientificas Mexicanas” and turned into a really nice infographic.

Caviedes-Solis, I.W., Kim, N. and Leaché, A.D. 2020. Species IUCN threat status level increases with elevation: a phylogenetic approach for Neotropical tree frog conservation. Biodiversity and Conservation. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-020-01986-8

Fancy frog cover

A new paper from our lab is featured on the cover of the journal Evolution.

The Ghostly Tree Frog, Leptopelis spiritusnoctis, is one of many unique amphibians and reptiles species endemic to subtropical West Africa. A comparative phylogeographic study of 20 species (Leache et al. pages 716–724) uncovered a wide range of genetic divergence histories, suggesting that biodiversity in this region has been shaped by diversification events that are both recent and extending beyond the Holocene. Photo Credit: Duncan Reid & Adam Leache, University of Washington. (See pages 716–724).

Leaché, A. D., J. Oaks, C. Ofori-Boateng, and M. K. Fujita. 2020. Comparative phylogeography in West African amphibians and reptiles. Evolution 74: 716–724.