UT Professor Burghardt’s Research Featured on PBS

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The research of UT Professor Gordon Burghardt will be featured on the Oct. 20 NOVA program on PBS from 8 – 9 p.m. (Comcast channel 2, digital cable channel 15). The show is focused on the entire group of monitor lizards, which includes the largest lizard in the world, the Komodo Dragon. Burghardt is a UT Alumni Distinguished Service Professor and holds appointments in the Departments of Psychology and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He is editor of the Journal of Comparative Psychology and President-elect of Division 6 (Behavioral Neuroscience and Comparative Psychology) of the American Psychological Association.

They may look like dragons and inspire visions of fire-spitting monsters but these creatures with their long claws, razor-sharp teeth, and muscular, whip-like tails are actually monitors, the largest lizards now walking the planet. With their acute intelligence, these lizards—including the largest of all, the Komodo dragon—are a very different kind of reptile, blurring the line between reptiles and mammals. Thriving on Earth essentially unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs, they are a very successful species, versatile at adapting to all kinds of settings. This program looks at what makes these long-tongued reptiles so similar to mammals and what has allowed them to become such unique survivors.

Burghardt’s research focuses on the relationship between genetics and early environments in the development of behavior patterns and sensory processes, concentrating on natricine snakes and constricting snakes as models, and feeding, defensive, and social behavior as the target systems.

The entire show also will be available for viewing online following the airing Tuesday night at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/lizard/program.html. For more information on NOVA, visit http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/.

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