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American lizards from the state of Colorado eat stress. The cause is noisy military aircraft

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American lizards from the state of Colorado deal with stress by eating it and giving up physical activity. The researchers analyzed blood samples of the reptiles for the presence of “stress hormones” and observed their behavior. The reason for the animals’ worries are… military planes – the animals live in one of the military bases, and more specifically Fort Carson.

Stress doesn’t just affect people. Animals are also sensitive to stress factors and, like us, try to cope with them in various ways. As a study published Wednesday in the journal Frontiers in Amphibian and Reptile Science shows, some of these methods are not all that different from our ways of dealing with stress.

Lizards and the military

Researchers from Utah State University and Colorado State University looked at one of the species’ lizard populations Aspidoscelis neotessellatus, reptiles inhabiting only the southeastern part of Colorado. Adult specimens are up to 30 centimeters long and have a characteristic spotted-striated coloration. The species consists of only females that reproduce asexually.

Part of the area inhabited by A. neotessellatus it is located in the area of ​​the Fort Carson military base in Colorado. The animals living there are exposed to the noise associated with military aircraft flying over there – although lizards have a fairly simple hearing system, they are particularly sensitive to sounds from the 400-1500 hertz range.

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Researchers tested whether the noise associated with flights had an impact on the animals’ well-being during the breeding season. For this purpose, they caught lizards during the day – both during periods of increased traffic and calm. Scientists took blood samples from them and conducted observations of their behavior. In the laboratory, they analyzed the blood, determining the level of cortisol and other chemicals, the elevated levels of which indicate stress. The researchers also checked which animals were pregnant.

Aspidoscelis neotessellatus – illustrative photoAdobe Stock

Lazy and hungry

As the results showed, the concentration of cortisol in the blood of the animals increased sharply immediately after the flights. Females with more developing eggs tended to be taller, indicating that they may be more sensitive to noise. The researchers also noticed that during periods of increased aircraft traffic, the lizards behaved quite differently – they spent less time moving around, but showed an increased interest in food.

“Eating allows individuals to maintain their energy levels during a stressful event,” explained Layne Sermersheim of Utah State University and co-author of the study. – This is important because metabolism, physical activity, reproduction and hormonal responses all require energy.

The authors point out that the stress of flying could be reduced if pilots avoided places where lizards congregate during the breeding season. Another countermeasure could be to fly high enough to keep the noise below 50 decibels, rising to over 112 dB during periods of heavy traffic.

A growing body of research shows that noise pollution disrupts wildlife on land and in the oceans. Excessive noise can affect the loudness and frequency of animals’ vocalizations, as well as change their mating behavior or where they choose to hunt.

CNN, Utah State University

Main photo source: Adobe Stock

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