February 24, 2017
Contact: Yvonne Menard
Westmont College Assistant Professor of Biology Amanda Sparkman will discuss new research on the evolution of dwarfism in Channel Islands reptiles, during the March From Shore to Sea lecture.
The Channel Islands are home to three reptile species that exhibit dwarfism, or have evolved into smaller forms than their mainland relatives. Two of these reptile species, the southern alligator lizard and western yellow-bellied racer, have only recently been identified as dwarf species.
Sparkman will discuss research that she has done to compare the traits of these island species to those of their mainland counterparts in California. Initial testing has revealed differences between the two, including lower levels of blood glucose in island reptiles, as compared to levels in mainland reptiles.
Her work broadly explores how dwarfism occurs in reptiles and how it might affect other traits, such as reproduction, lifespan, and behavior. By looking at the genetics and physiological differences of these reptiles, Sparkman hopes to shed light on the dynamics of adaptation on the islands and to deepen the public’s knowledge and appreciation of the islands’ unique reptiles.
Sparkman received her Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Iowa State University, studying life-history evolution and physiology of garter snakes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. She has been a professor in the biology department at Westmont College for just over five years, teaching courses in Ecology, Evolution, Herpetology, Ornithology, and Behavioral Ecology.
The talk will be held on Thursday, March 9, 2017. The From Shore to Sea lecture series is sponsored by Channel Islands National Park to further the understanding of current research on the Channel Islands and surrounding marine waters. The 2017 lecture series will take place at 7:00 pm on the second Thursday of each month, January through December, at the Channel Islands National Park Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center, 1901 Spinnaker Drive in Ventura Harbor. The programs are free and open to the public.
This lecture can also be viewed live online, at: Shore to Sea lecture series.