Adam Leaché, a University of California, Berkeley, Ph.D. recipient and a National Science Foundation (NSF) bioinformatics postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Davis, at the time, and the U.S. Geological Survey released a study in 2009 that showed that over their million-year evolution, when California's coast horned lizards moved north from Baja California and spread throughout the state, they diverged into at least two new species. The species of coast horned lizard pictured here, P. cerroense, was newly identified by the researchers.
The study findings are important for future conservation efforts. Coast horned lizard populations are declining from southern Baja California to northern California for many reasons including loss of lowland habitat from agriculture and urbanization and the introduction of Argentine ants, which displace the more nutritious harvester ants that these lizards feed on.
The study was funded in part by NSF (grant DEB 03-30750). To read more about this study, see the UC-Berkeley news story For horned lizard, horns alone do not make the species.
(Date of Image: July 1991)
Credit: Jimmy A. McGuire, University of California, Berkeley