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Laurie J. Vitt

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Laurie J. Vitt

George Lynn Cross Research Professor Emeritus

Ph.D., Arizona State University
M.S., Western Washington University
B.A.., Western Washington University
405-325-5002 (Phone)
405-325-7771 (Fax)

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1. Most recently my research centers on the ecology of tropical reptiles. I am interested in the influence of history (phylogeny), foraging mode, biogeography, and morphology (including body size) on the ecological attributes of reptiles. The importance of foraging mode and history to the evolution of ecological traits has only recently been appreciated. Because of the high taxonomic and ecological diversity of tropical reptiles, they provide excellent models for identifying the evolutionary determinants of ecological patterns. Identification of patterns is critical to the design of realistic field experiments to test hypotheses generated by comparative studies.

2. As the result of field studies in the Brazilian and Ecuadorian Amazon basin, Brazilian Cerrado, and Brazilian caatinga, I am interested in the historical determinants of geographic patterns of reptile species diversity in South America.

3. Because of the rapid loss of all major habitats of the world over the past two decades, I am involved in numerous conservation biology projects. These range from advisory roles in conjunction with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to direct involvement in such projects as the National Academy symposium on disappearing amphibians. I have also been involved in a number of faunal surveys associated with development projects in tropical third world countries of South America.

4. Student research has been done on food availability as a determinant of fat storage and reproductive productivity in lizards, sexual selection in wide foraging lizards, evolution of body size, physiological consequences of herbivory, movement and home range ecology of rattlesnakes, performance physiology in an ecological context and biogeography of South American lizards. Student research has appeared in Ecological MonographsOecologiaHerpetologica, J. HerpetologyCanadian J. BiologyCopeia,Ecology, etc.


  • Winemiller, K. O., E. R. Pianka, L. J. Vitt, and A. Joern. 2001. Food web laws or niche theory? Six independent empirical tests. American Naturalist 158:193-199.
  • Glor, R. E., L. J. Vitt, and A. Larson. 2001. A molecular phylogenetic analysis of diversification in Amazonian Anolis lizards. Molecular Ecology 10:2661-2668.
  • Blackburn, D. G., and L. J. Vitt. 2002. Specializations of the chorioallantoic placenta in the Brazilian scincid lizard, Mabuya heathi: A new placental morphotype for reptiles. Journal of Morphology 254:121-131.
  • Vitt, L. J., E. R. Pianka, W. E. Cooper, Jr., and K. Schwenk. 2003. History and the global ecology of squamate reptiles. American Naturalist 162:44-60.
  • Pianka, E. R., and L. J. Vitt. 2003. Lizards: Windows to the Evolution of Diversity. University of California Press, Berkeley. Winner of the 2004 Oklahoma Book Award in the non-fiction category, awarded by the Oklahoma Center for the Book and winner of the Grand Prize at the 9th Annual (2005) Robert W. Hamilton Book Awards Ceremony at the University of Texas, Austin.
  • Vitt, L. J. 2004. Shifting paradigms: Herbivory and body size in lizards. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 48:16713-16714.
  • Vitt, L. J., J. P. Caldwell, S. S. Sartorius. W. E. Cooper, Jr., T. A. Baird, T. D. Baird, and V. Pérez-Mellado. 2005. Pushing the edge: extended activity as an alternative to risky body temperatures in an herbivorous teiid lizard (Cnemidophorus murinus: Squamata). Functional Ecology 19:152–158.
  • Vitt, L. J., and E. R. Pianka. 2005. Deep history impacts present day ecology and biodiversity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Early Edition on line, May 2)