Rapid evolution in action at White Sands National Monument
Towering gypsum dunes span hundreds of square miles in New Mexico’s White Sands National Monument, the largest gypsum dune field in the world. Hundreds of animal species thrive in this unique ecosystem, but it’s the lizards, in particular, that have attracted biologists from the University of California, Berkeley.
With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Bree Rosenblum and her team are studying evolution in action. White Sands lizards are undergoing adaptation and speciation on an extraordinarily rapid timescale. The lizards have become white to camouflage against predators, and may even be diverging into new species.
Rosenblum says understanding the process of evolution is as important as ever, given the large number of species facing extinction around the world. White Sands provides a compelling, accessible example of evolution and a tremendous opportunity for research and public outreach.
The research in this episode was supported by NSF award #1054062, CAREER: An Integrative Approach to Understanding and Communicating Evolution in Action. CAREER is the Faculty Early Career Development Program.