Climate Change Makes Bearded Dragons Less Intelligent

March 6, 2019
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Now when you recycle or drive your hybrid automobile to work to curb the far reaching effects of climate change, you can feel good about helping your pet beardie’s cousins in the wild. Scientists at the UK-based Royal Society have recently released intriguing findings that suggest that climate change can not only affect bearded dragons’ intelligence but that this difference in cognitive ability persists into adulthood.

Previous studies have already determined that reptile incubation temperatures impact the offspring’s growth rate, behavioral traits, and sex determination. This experiment specifically looked at how the bearded dragons’ incubation environment affects certain cognitive abilities, including gaze following into the distance, geometric gaze following, and social learning abilities of adult bearded dragons.

The experiment assigned thirteen bearded dragon eggs to two incubation conditions –hot and cold. Once hatched, the beaded dragons in both groups were raised to sexual maturity under the same environmental conditions as their peers. What’s unique about this particular study is that it focused on adult bearded dragons to see if environmental factors lead to lasting changes in bearded dragons’ cognition. According to the researchers, most experiments focus on reptiles that are only a few days or weeks old, which provides a limited glimpse into the potential impact on adult bearded dragons. This experiment found that while incubation temperature did not seem to affect the dragons’ propensity to follow gaze into the distance, the lizards that were incubated at colder temperatures were quicker to respond in looking upwards (though not the looking sideways). Both groups of bearded dragons did not demonstrate geometric gaze following during the course of the experiment so the potential effects of incubation temperature couldn’t be assessed.

Perhaps, the most intriguing finding of this study is that bearded dragons that were incubated at cooler temperatures demonstrated a noticeable positive effect in social learning—the “cold group” bearded dragons opened the door more times than their “hot group” peers and performed this task significantly quicker than the “hot group.” The results of this study are the first to demonstrate that incubation environment can influence the intelligence and cognitive ability of fully-grown reptiles. The researchers concluded that if these behaviors could be seen under natural conditions, “it is likely to have a profound impact upon individual [bearded dragon] fitness. “

Read the Full Study Here:

https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/ ... sos.170742