With over 6000 extant species, lizards are among the most diverse and abundant vertebrates. They are widely distributed geographically, occurring on all continents other than Antarctica, and occupy many habitats over a wide range of elevations. Although no extant lizard species is completely aquatic, mosasaurs (image below) were abundant in oceans during the Cretaceous Period. Today, Marine Iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) feed beneath the surface of marine waters surrounding islands throughout the Galapagos Archipelago; other lizard species feed in exposed portions of intertidal zones. Many other lizards are widely distributed on oceanic islands. Lizards are taxonomically diverse, as reflected by the numerous extant lizard families. The underlying phylogenetic differences are accompanied by great variation in morphological, physiological, ecological and behavioral traits that is fascinating in its own right. In recent decades we have attained many profound insights into the deep history of these traits and have assessed the importance of linking these key adaptations to lizard life-histories, including foraging modes, lingual structure for feeding and chemosensory investigation via the lingual-vomeronasal system to locate and identify foods, among others.
As the impacts of the human population explosion on lizards accelerate due to habitat destruction, climate change, the growing international pet trade and the spread of invasive species, including lizards, conservation has become increasingly important. Unfortunately, many activities of human beings have reduced populations of certain species to critically low levels or even to extinction. Any loss is entirely unacceptable, yet some has occurred and more losses seem inevitable with our species’ progressing pursuit of planetary ecocide. We need to become much better at being good stewards, alarmist concerning impending mass extinctions, and advocates of social change. As biologists we can document impacts, determine responsible factors and explore and establish means to avert or mitigate impacts. Research on these topics as related to lizards is growing, but needs to be expanded. Our featured speaker (Dr. Barry Sinervo) has studied various physiological and behavioral aspects of lizards, including extinction.
To celebrate their scientific importance and fascination, their beauty, and conservation, the Chiricahua Desert Museum & Geronimo Event Center has organized the first Biology of Lizards Conference. We invite you to submit abstracts for 20 minute talks (15 min for talks, 5 min for questions) or posters. The emphasis will be on reporting research findings about a variety of topics in basic research and applied research, the latter including conservation studies, on lizards. We also welcome presentations on ethnic and cultural topics about lizards. As the organizers of the Biology of Lizards Conference, it is our hope that you will find this meeting educational, innovative, inspiring, and enjoyable. Thank you for your valued support and participation.
Dr. Gordon W. Schuett
Dr. Chuck Smith
Cristina A. Jones
Dr. William E. Cooper
Dr. Wade C. Sherbrooke
Lawrence L. C. Jones
Our understanding of the community ecology of lizards, especially niche ecology, has advanced greatly in recent years largely to the efforts of our keynote speaker (Dr. Eric Pianka) and banquet speaker (Dr. Laurie Vitt). Lizards are among the organisms of choice for studies of several antipredatory defenses especially autotomy, escape behavior and refuge use; research on thermoregulation and thermal effects on running speed and various aspects of behavior; and use of visual signals in social communication. And these topics are just a smattering of the many areas in which lizards have figured prominently in ecological, behavioral and physiological research. Our current view of lizard phylogeny reflects rapid advances since the advent of cladistics and addition of molecular genetic techniques to the research arsenal.
Many of us find that lizards matter for nonscientific reasons intrinsic to the animals themselves. Some of us were fascinated by them from childhood. Others became lizard specialists later. Who knows why lizards captivated our interest? Many species are stunningly beautiful, having brilliant color patterns that inspire admiration and become intellectually intriguing as we discover the social, antipredatory, predatory and thermoregulatory functions of coloration. Some lizards attract attention for their bizarre body shapes. Brightly colored and morphologically unusual species draw the attention of wildlife artists as well as researchers.