The impact of global climate change on the development and phenotypic diversity in oviparous ectotherms
Project number: PN-III-P1-1.1-PD-2021-0591
Period: April 2022 - March 2024
PI: Iulian Gherghel, PhD
Dan Cogalniceanu, PhD
Range shifts, habitat loss and species extinctions have been already observed due to climate change. The effects on ectothermic vertebrates are predicted to be particularly severe. Polymorphic reptiles are an excellent model system to study the influence of climate change. The diverse morphs of polymorphic species have been observed to have divergent niches and different thermal physiological optimums, and respond differently to the changing climate. The current project aims to explore the effects of climate change on development and phenotypic diversity of oviparous reptiles. The objectives of the proposed project are to study: the spatial variation of characteristics of phenotypic diversity, evaluate the effects of warming on phenotypic
diversity, study the effects of extreme weather events on the phenotypic diversity, and to study the spatial variation of development of phenotypic diversity in response to climate change across species ranges. From this project, I expect to find geographic differences in phenotype frequency, differences in temperature and precipitation regimes where each phenotype is dominant, higher predicted mortality in sites at lower latitude compared with sites at higher latitude, and that the effects of climate warming and stochastic events to vary across the species range, and to have a synergistic effect. We will be able to detect which populations covering Europe and East Asia are more prone to be affected by the changing climates.
• climate change
• Species distribution modeling
• macroecological patterns
The current project aims to explore the effects of climate change (i.e. temperature) on the development and phenotypic diversity of ectothermic oviparous vertebrates (the European grass snake - Natrix natrix, and the sand lizard – Lacerta agilis) during their development.
The objectives of the project are to study:
the spatial variation of characteristics of phenotypic diversity,
evaluate the effects of warming on the phenotypic diversity,
study the effects of simulated extreme weather events on the phenotypic diversity,
study the spatial variation of development phenotypic diversity response to climate change across the species range.
March 2022: competition results published by UEFISCDI
March 2022: signing the grant contract and employment
February - April 2022: acquiring the necessary field collection and research permits
April 2022 - in progress: acquiring phenotypic data of the study species
May - July 2022: fieldwork in the Eastern half of Romania
August 2022: results of our fieldwork from Danube Delta have been presented at the 6th European Congress of Conservation Biology held from August 22–26, 2022, in Prague, Czech Republic.
September 2022: results of our phenotypic data analyses on Natrix natrix have been presented at the 21st European Congress of Herpetology held from September 5-9, 2022, in Belgrade, Serbia.
Natrix natrix - Grass snake
The grass snake is an oviparous widely spread non-venomous snake species distributed across most temperate Eurasia, from Germany to Lake Baikal in Russia and western China, spanning across multiple climate regions. Despite its large range distribution, its occurrence is patchy and prefers wet habitats, often found close to freshwater (river valleys, lakes, coastal habitats, lagoons, woodland, and field margins, and along irrigation channels). Generally, reproduction occurs in the spring and early summer months. The grass snakes exhibit a wide range of color variations on their temporal spots, backs can be light or dark, to melanistic, different darker patterns can also be observed (spots, zig-zags, lines, etc), and in some regions (particularly in the south), two yellow stripes from head to tail. Adults tend to have around 1 m in length but larger individuals (up to 1.8 m) can be observed.
Grass snake - Natrix natrix
Lacerta agilis - Sand Lizard
The sand lizard is an oviparous widely spread lizard species distributed across most temperate Eurasia, from France to Lake Baikal in Russia, spanning across multiple climate regions. Despite its large range distribution, its occurrence is patchy and prefers relatively dry habitats (pastures, riparian habitats, gardens, coastal habitats with Juncus sp.). Generally, reproduction occurs in the spring and early summer months, however different reproductive strategies exist, where females from the northern part of the species range can lai eggs later in the season (late clutches generally develop faster than early clutches). The sand lizards exhibit a wide range of color variations with green, grey, or reddish backs, with or without lateral and dorsal darker stripes or patches and ocellated marks. Adults tend to reach (and sometimes surpass) 20 cm in length.