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Northern legless lizard
Center for     Biological     Diversity   

This Lizard Doesn't Need Legs — But It Does Need Land

At first glance you might mistake a legless lizard for a snake. But you can identify these intriguing critters — whose legs have either disappeared or shrunk beyond utility over evolutionary time — by examining their heads. Unlike snakes, they tend to have notched tongues rather than forked ones, as well as eyelids and external ear openings. Some species retain tiny, vestigial limbs.

In central California's Kern County, the Temblor legless lizard lives only in a single tiny area — more than 98% of which is open to oil and gas development. So on Monday the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned for the animal's protection under the Endangered Species Act. (The photo above is of another legless lizard in Northern California, Anniella pulchra.)

The lizard, which swims sinuously through sand, only survives at four sites. "Rampant oil drilling is causing double damage to the legless lizard by destroying habitat and accelerating climate change," said Center conservation advocate Jeff Miller.

Elephants

Today: A Discussion of Africa's Imperiled Wildlife

Join us later today for our next Saving Life on Earth webinar, featuring staff from our International program, to learn about our work to save African wildlife, including giraffes, elephants, leopards and pangolins — and how you can help.

The hour-long webinar starts at 4 p.m. PT / 7 p.m. ET. You have to register to join, so sign up and then check your email for a link.

Did you miss a webinar you were really interested in? If so, you may be happy to know we record them all. To find and watch the videos at your convenience, scroll down on this page to the "Speaker Series" section.

San Pedro River

Devastating photographs taken by Center cofounder Robin Silver show the San Pedro River in Arizona before and after newly constructed stretches of border wall. The last free-flowing desert river in the Southwest, the San Pedro is home to endangered species including the southwestern willow flycatcher, desert pupfish, yellow-billed cuckoo, northern Mexican garter snake, loach minnow, spikedace, Huachuca water umbel and Arizona eryngo. Learn more in the Tucson Weekly.

Shark

Ask Dr. Donley: Are Sharks Being Killed for Vaccines?

"Just because you should get vaccinated doesn't mean vaccines are perfect," says the Center's Dr. Nate Donley in the latest installment of his eco-advice column. Some vaccines contain squalene, an oil highly concentrated in shark livers. But less than 1% of shark-based squalene is used for vaccines. So while a heartbreaking 3 million sharks die for liver oil yearly — a small fraction of the 100 million killed overall (mostly from finning and illegal bycatch) — the demand for squalene for vaccines accounts for less than one-thousandth of 1% of all sharks unnecessarily slaughtered each year.

"Exploitation of the natural world created this pandemic. It should not be a part of the fix. Vaccine manufacturers can, and should, begin to move toward squalene-free formulas or commit to sourcing 100% of their squalene from plants."

Check out Nate's thoughtful, articulate answer to this complicated query.

Airplanes

A Better Way to Fly

The United States emits more aviation pollution than any other country, but it doesn't have to be that way. A new Center report finds that planet-warming pollution from U.S. airplanes could be cut by 75% in the next 20 years. That would be significant progress in avoiding climate catastrophe.

Unfortunately the Environmental Protection Agency's new aviation proposals are too weak. That's why we joined more than 100 other groups calling on the agency to replace its proposal with standards that rapidly decarbonize the industry.

"We can cut aviation pollution more quickly and effectively than most people realize, but we need technology-forcing standards," said John Fleming, a Center scientist. "We can't get there if the EPA lets the industry write the rules."

Amy Coney Barrett

Judge Barrett Calls Climate Change 'Very Contentious'

In her hearing before Congress last week, prospective Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett declined to say climate change is scientific fact, instead calling it a "controversial" matter of public policy.

This tipoff that her judicial decisions would be informed by climate-change denial, Center lawyer Brett Hartl told the UK's Independent, is typical of the "right-wing view that scientific reality is something that you can have an opinion about." If the judge "doesn't believe that people are actually injured by climate change, cases like Massachusetts v. EPA will be lost before you even get to the merits. The court will not be open to hearing those sorts of cases in the first place."

Blue whale

The Revelator: Saving Whales From Ship Strikes

Even a 200-ton blue whale probably won't survive a collision with a speeding cargo ship. And according to The Revelator, ship strikes are worse than ever for endangered and threatened whales on the U.S. West Coast. But thanks to cutting-edge technology and a new project called Whale Safe, whales in California's Santa Barbara Channel finally have hope.

Get details on the problem and project and subscribe to The Revelator's weekly newsletter.

Purple flowers

Wild & Weird: Climate Is Changing Flowers' Color

Between 1941 and 2017, the amount of pigment in flower petals in North America, Europe and Australia increased by about 2% yearly, says a new study — all in response to a steady increase in UV radiation caused by climate change.

The more UV-absorbing pigment a flower's petals contain, the less harmful radiation reaches sensitive cells.

Although these pigment shifts are imperceptible to the human eye, pollinators can notice the change, which may cause them to interact differently with a field of flowers.

Read more at Science magazine.

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Photo credits: Northern legless lizard by J. Maughn/Flickr; African elephants by Brett Hartl/Center for Biological Diversity; San Pedro River in Arizona before and after new border wall construction (c) Robin Silver/Center for Biological Diversity; shark by David Clode/Unsplash; airplanes on runway by Tobias Rehbein/Pixabay; President Trump and Amy Coney Barrett courtesy the White House; blue whale killed by ship strike by Craig Hayslip/Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute; purple flowers by Michael Levine Clark/Flickr.

Center for Biological Diversity
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Tucson, AZ 85702
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