Sep 3, 2010

Evolution In Action: Lizard Lays Eggs and Gives Birth to Live Young

Brian Handwerk with National Geographic News has an interesting article about scientists studying a species of Australian lizard called the yellow-bellied three-toed skink - they've discovered that the lizard lays eggs on coasts but gives birth to live babies in mountains.

Evolutionary records shows that nearly a hundred reptile lineages have independently made the transition from egg-laying to live birth in the past, and today about 20 percent of all living snakes and lizards give birth to live young only.

But modern reptiles that have live young provide only a single snapshot on a long evolutionary time line, said study co-author James Stewart, a biologist at East Tennessee State University. The dual behavior of the yellow-bellied three-toed skink therefore offers scientists a rare opportunity.

"By studying differences among populations that are in different stages of this process, you can begin to put together what looks like the transition from one [birth style] to the other."

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