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FEATURE ARTICLE

A Threat to New Zealand's Tuatara Heats Up

This unique outlier in the reptile class produces excess male offspring when temperatures rise, presenting a confounding conservation challenge.

Kristine L. Grayson, Nicola J. Mitchell, Nicola J. Nelson

2014-09GraysonF1.jpgClick to Enlarge ImageThe tuatara looks like a lizard but is not one. This native of New Zealand is a remnant of an ancient lineage of reptiles and an important case study for workable conservation measures for isolated, endangered creatures. The long-lived tuatara, slow to respond to environmental change, making it particularly susceptible to a warming climate. Its sex, like many reptiles, is determined by temperature. Grayson, Mitchell, and Nelson describe their computer modeling and population monitoring that has shown that the tuatara population of North Brother Island in New Zealand could become entirely composed of males.


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