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White Sands lizard quickly adapts white skin to avoid extinction

White Sands lizard quickly adapts white skin to avoid extinction.

Lizards in New Mexico’s White Sands National Park have been forced to make a very specific adaptation in order to avoid extinction.

The national park features enormous gypsum dunes for hundreds of miles with bright, white sands. In order to avoid being wiped out by predators, lizards have developed white skin, a stark contrast to their typical browns and greens.

What is especially remarkable is the extremely fast pace with which the adaptation is occurring: the change is so significant that scientists think the lizards may even become a new species.

Dr. Bree Rosenblum and her team from Berkeley University, in conjunction with the National Science Foundation (NSF), are currently studying the rapid adaptation of the lizards in White Sands National Park. According to Rosenblum, understanding this evolution is as important as ever, given how many species are currently facing possible extinction.

The lightening complexion of the lizards is due the Mc1r gene, which reduces the amount of melanin in the lizards’ skin, making it appear whiter.

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