Science Detective Investigates Lizards and Evolution at Scripps Lecture


Come to Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego to hear about a research adventure to the Caribbean islands and explore the mysteries of lizard evolution.

Jonathan Losos of Harvard University will present the annual Richard H. and Glenda G. Rosenblatt Lectureship in Evolutionary Biology at 3 p.m. on March 20 in Sumner Auditorium on the Scripps Oceanography campus, 8602 La Jolla Shores Drive in La Jolla, Calif. (Sumner Auditorium is one-half block north of El Paseo Grande). The lecture is free and open to the public.

Losos is Harvard's Monique and Philip Lehner Professor for the Study of Latin America, professor of organismic and evolutionary biology and curator in herpetology at the university's Museum of Comparative Zoology. His presentation, "Lizards in an Evolutionary Tree: Unraveling the Mysteries of Biodiversity in the Caribbean," will describe his career-long research efforts to understand the paths of evolution and branches of species diversification, with Anolis lizards as his main focus.

"How do we account for the great diversity of life we see around us?" Losos wrote in an article in BioScience Magazine. "I like to compare being an evolutionary biologist to being a detective; both involve using clues available to fashion the best case of whodunit."

Losos' research combines a mix of field observations in the Caribbean wild; laboratory studies testing features such as how fast lizards run and how far they jump; DNA studies to connect evolutionary relationships; and novel field experiments in nature to study evolutionary changes in real time.

One of the world's foremost advocates of taking an experimental approach to studying evolutionary phenomena in nature, Losos has made Anolis lizards one of the best known and appreciated case studies in the field of evolutionary biology. Anolis lizards, or anoles, are rather small, insect-eating lizards with enlarged and sticky toe pads that allow them to navigate slick and narrow surfaces. More than 110 species of anoles inhabit areas spanning from tree canopies to grassy regions.

In 2009 Losos was awarded the Edward O. Wilson Naturalist Award from the American Society of Naturalists. He has served as editor of the American Naturalist, president of the American Society of Naturalists and editor-in-chief of the forthcoming Princeton Guide to Evolution.

Losos is the seventh recipient of the Rosenblatt Lectureship, part of the Scripps Distinguished Lecture Series.

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