Professor Invites YOU to Study Lizard Behavior

Many people encounter salamanders in Pennsylvania, but only the lucky few have the chance to see lizards. There are only four native species of lizards in Pennsylvania. One of these is the eastern fence lizard, Sceloporus undulatus. Dr. Renee Rosier, assistant professor of biology, uses these lizards to research behavioral development and the consequences of early-life environments on growth, survival, and reproduction.

Rosier use a combination of laboratory and field techniques to answer questions about why animals exhibit unique behaviors and how these behaviors relate to their environment.

"By using fence lizard as a study system, I am able to investigate and even manipulate the entire development period," explains Rosier. "For example, hormones can be applied to eggs or the incubation conditions altered in order to determine the impacts of maternal hormones and nest site selection on development."

In addition to these developmental questions she is also interested in dispersal patterns and distribution of fence lizards in Pennsylvania. Having worked with lizards from Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, and Pennsylvania, Rosier believes that the lizards at this northern range edge are a bit different in terms of behavior and physiology.

"We have a lot to learn about the distribution of reptiles in Pennsylvania," states Rosier. "I think the patchy nature of fence lizard populations may have significant implications for local adaptations. This summer I am working with fence lizards I collected near Pittsburgh, PA in Westmoreland County. I collected eggs from two female lizards and incubated them in the lab."

The hatchling lizards are in the lab on campus as part of Rosier's study investigating the impact of early socialization on personality.

"Historically, lizards were considered to be non-social and are often isolated in captivity. One of my previous studies and research from other labs are indicating that this isolation can have significant impacts on the behavior of lizards and even their ability to find food," says Rosier. "With my current study I aim to determine if visual interactions are sufficient for lizards to express 'normal' behavior. This research has important implications for our understanding of social requirements for 'asocial' species and for researchers who keep lizards in captivity."

Rosier invites all to view The Lizard Webcam in order to see what it's like to study lizard behavior by watching a baby lizard in the lab on campus.

Do the lizards look normal to you? Take a peek at The Lizard Webcam [Note: the Lizard Webcam has been disabled. - 2019] and see what lizard behavior is all about!