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August 15, 2019 at 3:27 pm

Miles Quoted in Article on Lizard Extinction Research, Climate Change

Dr. Donald Miles, portrait

Dr. Donald Miles

Dr. Donald Miles, Professor of Biological Sciences at Ohio University, was extensively quoted in a Behemian article headlined “Lizard Vision : Groundbreaking lizard extinction research could predict the wrath of climate change—and what to do about it.”

…Sinervo’s frequent research collaborator Donald Miles, a fellow lizard expert and professor at Ohio University, remembers a “small but dedicated” group of ecologists and biologists sounding the alarm about climate change around the time he started working with Sinervo in 1993. Sinervo was always funny and enthusiastic, Miles remembers, but he was intense, working long hours and building a reputation as a prolific publisher in scientific journals. Sinervo made a name for himself as a doctoral student and was hired by UCSC, after he discovered what he describes as a naturally occurring game of rock-paper-scissors near a research site in Los Banos. For male side-blotched lizards that come in three colors—orange, blue or yellow—he established that each group’s character traits keep the three populations in equilibrium. The orange lizards’ blatant aggression beats the smaller blue lizards, using brute force to win more mating partners. But the yellow lizards can trick the macho orange lizards by imitating females to sneak in and find more mates. Blue can still trump yellow, though, since they’re monogamous and thus more vigilant in protecting mating partners.

The “roshambo” research, as Sinervo calls it, was one of what would become many examples of how lizard evolution can shed light on an issue that confounds humans.

“A lot of people struggle with teaching gender,” Sinervo says. “With the lizards, you can kind of begin to grapple with all that. They’re not just male and female.”

In the process, Sinervo also established his street cred with fellow herpetologists.

By 2007, Sinervo and Miles had worked together enough that the UCSC professor sent a grad student with Miles to Mexico on a supposedly routine research trip. Following the directions of Mexican colleague Fausto Roberto Méndez de la Cruz, the duo headed to a reliable site east of Mexico City. But they couldn’t find the lizards there, nor in several surrounding areas. They called for reinforcements.

“There were five people looking for lizards, and we didn’t find any of the species,” Miles recalls. “Maybe it’s climate change,” he told Méndez de la Cruz….

Read more in Bohemian.

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