I, for One, Welcome Our New Super-Intelligent Reptilian Overlords

January 13, 2012


As climate change alters the temperatures of reptile habitats around the globe, tests of one lizard species suggests warmer nests could make some reptiles smarter.

When researchers incubated the eggs of Bassiana duperreyi, a mountain-dwelling Australian skink, at warmer-than-usual temperatures, they grew up to perform especially well on a learning task.

Herpetologists knew reptiles incubated in warmer nests developed differently, but linking hotter egg temperatures to increased intelligence is a first.

“We have 16 to 17 years of data on the effects of incubation temperature on skinks. We know the hotter guys are bigger, faster, absorb more [egg] yolk,” said herpetologist Joshua Amiel of the University of Sydney, whose research was published Jan. 11 in Biology Letters. “But hardly anyone has given a look at the effect on reptile learning.”

After incubating two different sets of eggs at different temperatures — the warmer set mimicking natural incubation settings of skinks at lower elevations, the cooler set mimicking higher elevations — Amiel and Shine tested the hatchlings.

They sent each lizard running by touching its tail, then measured how long it took to find the open shelter and how often it tried to enter the blocked door. Warm-incubated lizards learned to find the open flower pot much more readily than their cool-incubated siblings. In the wild, improved learning abilities likely increase chances of survival.

As global temperatures continue to shift, Amiel thinks some reptile species living in warming climates may become innately smarter. In cooling climates, they could become less intelligent.

The fact is, there’s evidence that some of these creatures are already here, living among us.


12 Responses to “I, for One, Welcome Our New Super-Intelligent Reptilian Overlords”

  1. Mauricio, Peter just gave you a free throw. The key for me was to be tension free after letting it go.

  2. adelady Says:

    Surprisingly I missed the global warming possibilities when I read this New Scientist piece a couple of weeks ago. It seems reptiles may already be cleverer than we thought.


  3. ozonator Says:

    But what will happen to extremist Republicans and Christians reptile dysfunction and happiness envy??????

  4. Oh boy…don’t you worry, NS is like teenagerhood, you’ll move on soon. But I’d keep mum with strangers about being a subscriber.

  5. Oh boy! I am cracking up – may be the bird of paradise has arrived 🙂

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