Lizards adapt to city life

Moving to a city means adapting to different surroundings. And it’s no different for lizards in Bengaluru city too, find scientists: Indian rock agamas here are changing their physiology — including lowering their testosterone levels — to adapt to urban life. Some wild animals (including rock agamas which are usually found in the south Indian countryside) are at home in urban areas too. Some species are ‘exploiters’: using urban areas greatly to their advantage, they thrive better here. Others are ‘adapters’: making a few changes, they use the new areas, but only nearly as well as they do in their natural habitats. Identifying species as adaptors or exploiters helps assess the health of animals in disturbed areas and develop better management plans for them. The standard way to find out if Bengaluru’s agamas are adapters that can cope with urban life would be to observe their behaviour (many lizards change their behaviour in urban areas). However, Madhura Amdekar and her colleagues at Bengaluru’s Indian Institute of Science took a different approach: they studied agama physiology, for urbanisation does affect physiology and compromised physiological conditions would mean that the lizards are trying to adapt. They identified 41 urban lizards in Bengaluru city and 42 others in the rural Anthargange forest range, 60 km away. The team captured these lizards and measured their body conditions, parasite levels on the skin and cell-mediated immunity (a kind of immune response to foreign and potentially harmful substances) in the laboratory. They also studied hormone levels and heterophil-to-lymphocyte (H:L) ratios in the blood, which are indicators of stress and immunity levels.

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