Dude Looks Like a Lady

Chalk up another point under the “Weird Things Caused by Global Warming” category (we’re not sure what the running tally is, but we’re guessing it’s somewhere in the vicinity of a zillion bajillion by now).

Researchers from the University of Canberra along with experts from the Australian National University recently found some strange behavior in one species of Australian lizards. Bearded dragon lizards that were males at the onset of incubation experienced a sex change and hatched as females after being placed in hotter-than-normal conditions.

From an article in The Canberra Times:

The researchers found temperatures hotter than 34 degrees during the mid-stages of incubating dragon eggs caused sex reversals, with male western bearded dragons switching gender to develop and hatch as females, but still retaining their male chromosomes.

The study, which was published in the journal Science on Friday, sheds light on how climate change may affect this species of lizard, and reveals new information on sex determination in bearded dragons.

University of Canberra professor of applied ecology Arthur Georges is one of Australia leading researchers on how temperatures affect sex determination in turtles and lizards.

He said it was previously thought that reptiles had two modes of sex determination, sex determined at conception by sex chromosomes (as in humans) and sex determined by temperatures experienced by embryos during incubation.


“What we’ve been able to do is demonstrate for the first time the co-existence of genetic and environmental influences in one species, which opens up exciting new avenues for investigating sex determination,” he said.

Researchers are not sure whether the sex-changed dragons will be able to reproduce. But based on this study, they do say that climate change will certainly have significant implications for bearded dragons.

Granted, climate change is a real bummer for many species, Australian lizards included. Here’s hoping male bearded dragons experiencing sex changes from global warming will, at the very least, join the circus and launch lucrative careers as bearded ladies.