Best of both worlds: The story of ‘third sex’ lizards

In animals like turtles, lizards and other reptiles, in whom gender is dictated and influenced by external factors, climate change can have dramatically serious repercussions. It can, as was observed in the case of the Central bearded dragon of Australia, result in the creation of a reproductively superior variant that can possibly outcompete natural ones.

Lizard, Bearded, Dragon, Reptile, Wildlife, Animal

The Central Bearded Dragon of Australia                    Picture credits: Pixabay

According to this study, published in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, male embryos developing in eggs subjected to high temperatures could transform into a females. While these females are capable of producing a greater number eggs than their wild type female counterparts, the other predominantly male-like characteristics they possess qualify them to be termed as a ‘superfemale’ of sorts.

Inspite of having undergone a sex reversal while still in the egg, it was noted that these superfemales do not lose much of their masculine attributes either like their long tails, high body temperatures and bold behaviour during this change.

This combination of the favourable characteristics from both the genders seems to be helping super-females survive and even thrive under laboratory conditions.

These findings, that came as a result of studying 20 sex-reversed females, 55 males, and 40 regular females have forced scientists to believe that superfemales can drive regular ones to extinction. The superiority of the former is significant enough to not just cause a certain population to lose out on a female chromosome but to also do that, within the span of just a single generation.

These changes could result in an evolved population, in which the the sex of a lizard is determined entirely by temperature and not genetics. However, scientists have still got their fingers crossed, for while these conclusions may seem plausible under controlled setups, the story of the wild is an entirely different ball game altogether.

To read the original article, click here.

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