Identification Needed: Unknown Structures Found on Anolis sagrei Toes

-600Soil ESEM 20kV 421 micron SE_009 unknown structures

While recently working with scanning electron microscopy, I came across something interesting and I need some help identifying it. As a graduate student in Dr. Dan Warner’s lab at The University of Alabama at Birmingham, I am finishing up my thesis work on the adaptive significance of phenotypic plasticity in Anolis sagrei caused by incubation moisture and substrate. I have found significant differences in the level of desiccation tolerance in individuals incubated under wet and dry conditions. In pursuit of the mechanism by which these differences occur, I was using SEM to observe the spacing of the scales of individuals within my treatment groups. In doing so, I came across a toe of one individual and found several structures which I could not identify. The structures (circled in the picture above) are located on the scales around the toe pad and circling around the toenail. They appear to be hair-like projections.

Despite continued searching and communications with several others, I still cannot identify these structures. Any help or direction would be greatly appreciated.

ASH 2015: Size and Coloration of Draco Dewlaps

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A slide from Danielle Klomp’s talk showing how color is used in communication by some species of lizards. Check out the quick guest appearance by an anole.

The diversity of anole dewlap shapes, colors, and patterns is one of their most distinctive features. But anoles are not the only squamates with flashy dewlaps. When it comes to such accoutrements, anoles have some stiff competition from their Agamid cousins in the Indo-Pacific region, the ‘flying’ dragons (Draco). Draco lizards don’t really fly, of course. Rather, they can laterally expand their ribs and the connecting membrane to create a ‘wing’, which they use to glide between trees in their habitats. If you haven’t seen how they do this, it’s more than worth a watch. Lest you think anoles get left behind in this respect, we do know that some anoles glide, as well, even if they don’t exhibit the impressive wing-like structures that Draco lizards have.

 

Slide from Danielle's talk showing Draco lizards and their geographic distribution.

Slide from Danielle’s talk showing Draco lizards and their geographic distribution.

As I learned at Danielle Klomp’s talk at ASH 2015 last week, their dewlaps are almost as impressive as their gliding ability. Danielle is a PhD student working with Devi Stuart-Fox and Terry Ord and her dissertation has focused on studying the evolutionary ecology of Draco lizards. This past week she presented her work on these lizards’ dewlaps and what role they may play in sexual selection. Danielle examined dewlap size and coloration in 13 species of flying dragons. Overall, she found a strong negative correlation between color contrast (meaning they stand out relative to background coloration) and dewlap area in male lizards. Thus, she found that male dragons either had big dewlaps or conspicuously colored dewlaps, but not both. These results suggest that sexual selection for male conspicuity is occurring, but why can’t lizards exhibited large, conspicuously-colored dewlaps? Danielle suggested that having dewlaps that were both conspicuous in color and size were either too risky (meaning that they would be considerably more vulnerable to predation) or too costly to produce or maintain, though the precise mechanism underlying this pattern remains uncertain.

Continue reading

Lizard Olympians Benefit from Training Just Like Their Human Counterparts

 

Husak Lab member Erik Sathe putting a lizard through its paces. Photo by Jerry Husak

Husak Lab member Erik Sathe putting a lizard through its paces. Photo by Jerry Husak

AA contributor Jerry Husak has just published a great paper in The Journal of Experimental Biology on the effect of training (=practice) on the sprinting and endurance capabilities of green anoles. The Inkfish blog on Discover magazine’s website has written a brilliant description of the study:

Athletes don’t normally need to be chased down the track to get their training mileage in. But a green anole lizard is not a normal athlete.

Scientists wanted to know whether it’s possible to train a lizard at all. Human athletes and other mammals perform better with consistent exercise, but is this universal? Can a reptile increase its stamina? What about its sprint speed? So the scientists became lizard athletic trainers, which really means lizard harassers. Results were mixed.

The green anole lizard, or Carolina anole (Anolis carolinensis), is a common laboratory species. Basic rules of its biology—for example, how it responds to exercise—ought to apply to other vertebrates, such as humans. In the past, scientists have successfully used exercise to increase endurance in frogs, birds, alligators and crocodiles. But the same efforts with lizards have been inconclusive.

Jerry Husak, a biologist at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, studies lizards with the help of undergraduate researchers. He and his students decided to try creating “Olympic lizards.” They would train their subjects for two kinds of athletic ability, neither of which was totally foreign to the reptiles. Some lizards would become endurance athletes; this long-distance locomotion would mimic the slow patrolling and foraging anoles do in nature. And other lizards would become sprinters; in nature, they use bursts of speed to escape predators.

Thirty lizards were divided into sprinters, distance runners, and a control group. The sprinting track was a dowel two meters long and five centimeters wide, propped at a 45-degree angle. The researchers chased the lizards up the dowel and used infrared beams to measure their fastest speed. Sprinters “trained” three days a week for eight weeks. Gradually, the researchers increased the training intensity by making the lizards do more runs per day.

Meanwhile, the distance runners did their training on a treadmill. The researchers set the treadmill to a low speed and gently prodded the lizards with a paintbrush to keep them moving. These athletes had to stay on the treadmill for 30 minutes at a time, or until they were exhausted. (How do you know anoles are exhausted? “When we flip them over onto their backs and they can no longer flip themselves back onto their feet,” Husak explains. Glad he’s not my trainer.) These lizards, too, exercised three times a week for eight weeks, while the steepness of the treadmill gradually increased.

At the end of the training regimen, the researchers tested all their lizards a final time. The distance runners had clearly improved. On a fast treadmill, the endurance-trained lizards could run for almost three times as long as they had initially. Blood samples showed that their hematocrit levels—a measure of red blood cells, which carry oxygen—had also increased. And dissecting the limbs of dead lizards revealed that their muscle fibers had grown, just as they do in exercising mammals.

The sprinting lizards were a little more disappointing. In their final trials, they didn’t run any faster than they had before training. But their muscle fibers had also grown. Husak suspects that these athletes had actually improved—they just didn’t feel like performing.

“I definitely think the sprint-trained ones increased their sprinting abilities,” Husak says. But after the lizards had spent so much time being handled by humans, he says, “We just couldn’t motivate (i.e., scare) them enough…to run as fast as they could.”

There’s not likely to be a lizard Olympics anytime soon. Creating athletic anoles isn’t the only goal of Husak’s research, though. He’s ultimately interested in the tradeoffs that come with being a good athlete. Animals that spend more energy on reproduction, for example, may have to sacrifice life expectancy or immunity. Do the same tradeoffs happen when animals spend their resources to build beefy muscles?

Husak has gotten closer to answering that question by showing that lizards can be trained. Now he just has to figure out how to scare them into performing their best—because even if the biology of exercise is the same across vertebrates, the power of a “Just Do It” poster isn’t.

Anolis lividus Is HHMI Biointeractive’s Image of the Day

The post doesn’t say much, but it’s nice for this lovely anole to get the attention it deserves!

If you search for photos of A. lividus online, there aren’t all that many. Several more nice ones have appeared previously on AA, such as this one:

Photo by Jim Hewlett

 

and here’s one from Calphoto:

If you want to read more on this not-well-studied species from an island recently ravaged by volcanoesAA is the place [1,2].

 

 

 

Rodent Sticky Trap Snags a Rat and a Lizard

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I have heard of the use of sticky traps for studying lizards, though a colleague told me they seem to be of uncertain safety for anoles, as his recapture records were almost nonexistent.

We finally gave up on the “bio-warfare” of feline-infantry to a recent rodent invader to the house, and had to put this trap out last night inside the house. This morning we found the intruder caught in it (juvenile Rattus sp.), but the domestic service lady put it for a minute in the backyard and not long after an Anolis distichus was also caught, probably in the seek of flies stuck to the trap (see photos). She then called me and I used an old trick, pouring (vegetable) oil in the prey in order to make it come loose from the trap’s glue surface.IMG_1444

Could the oil create a thermic or clinging capability problem to the lizard? It obviously forms a coating above scales, hence I rubbed it with napkins and then placed it back to its favorite microhabitat (trunk bark) for it to bask and recover.
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The lizard (38 mm SVL) was toe-clipped and marked in the belly and put back in the backyard. Hopefully we can have a recapture in some days (if cats and sparrows don’t get it first).
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New Study on the Habitat Use of Day Geckos

Phelsuma guimbeaui from Mauritius.

Despite the brilliant colors, the natrual history of day geckos (Phelsuma) is little known. The most recent issue of Herpetological Conservation and Biology includes a very nice study on the habitat use of two Mauritian species, showing that they are most abundant in native forest and pointing out that, thanks to their pollinating services, they are keystone species. An interesting point is that even though day geckos are essentially Old World anole doppelgängers, in their habitat use they differ in rarely leaving the trunks of trees. One of the authors is legendary ornithological conservationist Carl Jones, almost single-handedly responsible for preventing the extinction of several Mauritian bird species.

Here’s the abstract:

Many fragile ecosystems across the globe are islands with high numbers of endemic species. Most tropical islands have been subject to significant landscape alteration since human colonisation, with a consequent loss of both habitat and those specialist species unable to adapt or disperse in the face of rapid change. Day geckos (genus Phelsumaare thought to be keystone species in their habitats and are, in part, responsible for pollination of several endangered endemic plant species. However, little is known about key drivers of habitat use which may have conservation implications for the genus. We assessed the habitat use of two species of Phelsuma (Phelsuma ornata and Phelsuma guimbeaui) in Mauritius. Both species showed a strong affinity with tree trunks, specific tree architecture and are both restricted to native forest. Tree hollows or cavities are also important for both species and are a rarely documented microhabitat for arboreal reptiles. Both P. ornata and P. guimbeaui avoid areas of high disturbance. Our data suggest that active conservation of Phelsuma requires not only the protection and restoration of native forest, but also implementation of forestry practices designed to ensure the presence of suitable trees.

SICB 2015: Thermal Biology and Gene Flow in Bahamian Anolis sagrei

Anolis sagrei. Photo from Wild about Spain

An important problem in climate change biology is understanding how evolutionary dynamics will influence the ability of populations or species to persist as environmental conditions change. In general, there are three ways that such evolutionary change can occur: (1) novel beneficial mutations can arise de novo; (2) rare alleles within a population can become beneficial and sweep to fixation; or (3) gene flow between locally adapted populations can introduce beneficial alleles to populations that did not previously have them. The potential for this latter scenario was investigated by Mike Logan using A. sagrei on a system of cays off of the Bahamian island Exuma. Mike measured operative thermal environments on the cays and Exuma, as well as temperature-dependent physiology of the animals in each population. He found that the islands differed in mean temperature and variability, and that optimal temperatures for physiological performance correlated with mean island temperature. Next, Mike used genetic markers to estimate population structure and rates of migration between the keys and the mainland. He found evidence for extensive gene flow between the populations, but with an interesting twist: gene flow was highest between populations that had the most similar thermal environments. Within the context of climate change, the observation of gene flow among islands based on thermal conditions suggest that as conditions change across a species’ range, beneficial alleles may be able to move into the populations where they are needed most. Mike’s work adds an important piece to an emerging picture about the interplay between standing genetic variation, local adaptation, and responses to global change.

ASH 2015: Fossil Anoles Provide Clues into Ecological Diversification

 

Emma Sherratt gives her talk on fossil anoles

Emma Sherratt gives her talk on fossil anoles

The annual meeting for the  Australian Society of Herpetology (ASH) is wrapping up here today in the lovely town of Eildon, Australia. Just because we’re a continent away from the native distribution of anoles doesn’t mean that anoles were not represented at the meeting. Yesterday afternoon Emma Sherratt, new faculty at the University of New England in Armidale, Australia, presented some of her post-doctoral work on fossil anoles preserved in amber. Emma began by saying that Caribbean anoles represent one of the oldest examples of extant adaptive radiations. Despite the age of this radiation, most of the work on the Caribbean anoles (and other adaptive radiations, for that matter), has focused primarily on living species, with historical inferences drawn from DNA analyses. She pointed out that historical insights based on analyses of extant species only should be treated with caution, unless there is corroborating information from the fossil record.

We know, she said, that islands are typically inhabited by a single lineage of ecomorphs (with subsequent diversification within ecomorphs). The fact that most ecomorph groups are represented by a single lineage on an island suggests that once an ecomorph niche is filled, it cannot be replaced, an idea known as ‘niche incumbency’. She argued that we can use fossils to assess that hypothesis – if fossil anoles pertain to same lineages of ecomorphs (e.g., the cristatellus clade of trunk-ground anoles, or the carolinensis group of trunk-crown anoles), then that would support the idea that ecomorph niches were only filled once. If extinct anoles fell into different lineages of ecomorphs, distinct from those that are extant today, then that would support the idea that ecomorphs could be replaced on islands, which would suggest that niche incumbency need not be occurring. Of course, it could also be possible for niche incumbency to have occurred if there were two lineages of the same ecomorph present on the same island, as long as the incumbent lineage drove the more recent one to extinction. But the hypotheses proposed by Emma were certainly a reasonable first pass to understand the origin of ecomorphs on the Caribbean islands.

Anoles have been fossilized in Hispaniolan amber, which we know to be about 15-20 million years old. All you folks who are anxiously awaiting the next installment of Jurassic Park be advised – this means that the famous amber used to get dinosaur DNA is far too young, as the dinosaurs (save for birds, of course) went extinct about 62 million years ago. For her study, Emma accessed an impressive 38 anole fossils preserved in amber. By far this is the largest data set of fossilized amber anoles ever examined. And, beyond their utility for understanding the process of diversification, anoles caught in amber are stunning fossils and the high resolution reconstructions that Emma makes using x-ray CT scans are equally impressive.

Emma found strong evidence that Hispaniolan fossil anoles fall into known ecomorph categories. To determine this she compared morphological details from extant species to the fossil anoles. Overall she found substantial morphological variation in the fossils, particularly in 20 of the best preserved and most complete fossils. Amazingly, Emma found that some of the fossils fell very clearly into the trunk-crown, trunk, trunk-ground, and twig ecomorph classes! She was further able to determine that the trunk-crown fossils fell into the chlorocyanus group of extant Hispaniolan lizards, and, with less confidence, evidence that the trunk-ground lizards fell into the cybotes group of extant Hispaniolan lizards. Thus, the results are suggestive that, once an ecomorph niche is filled, it prevents other lineages from evolving into it, which is consistent with niche incumbency. Obviously it is not possible to fully rule out the alternative – that species of other ecomorph lineages existed in the past – but certainly the results are a tantalizing glimpse into the processes that forged the current Caribbean fauna. In short, she found that most ecomorphs recognized today are not only present in the Miocene fauna, but also are represented by members of the same clades. Together, her results were consistent with the idea that niche incumbency occurred in the Caribbean radiation of anoles, which would indicate that interspecific interactions have regulated morphological diversity for millions of years.

A Very Orange Brown Anole

We’ve had a number of previous posts on orange-colored brown anoles, but here’s a nice blog post that discusses them a bit further, with a bonus photo of a yellowish green anole. Christina Chappell, the majordomo of serenityspell.com, reports that the lizard was seen in the northern part of the Everglades. And, no, in case you’re wondering, the photo was not altered in any way.

Australian Society of Herpetology 2015 Meeting: Follow #ASH15 on Twitter

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Greetings from Eildon, Australia, where the 2015 meeting for the Australian Society of Herpetology (ASH) is currently underway. Today is the first full day of talks and posters and I’m excited to learn what’s new and exciting in herpetology. Although the focus is predominantly on Australian amphibians and reptiles, there are several presentations on non-Australian herpetofauna, as well. Anoles are also represented as I will be giving a talk on my work on Hispaniolan anoles and Emma Sherratt will be speaking about her work on fossil anoles. If you would like to see what’s going at ASH, feel free to follow the conference on Twitter using #ASH15.

Ernest Williams Memorial Minute

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University has a quaint but lovely tradition of reading a “memorial minute” to honor deceased members of the faculty. I recently came across the minute concerning Ernest Williams, which was presented in 2009 and published in the Harvard Gazette.

At a Meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences on May 19, 2009, the following Minute was placed upon the records.

Ernest Williams was a man of many contrasts. Biology at Harvard in the third quarter of the last century was full of outsized personalities—titans in the field with strong opinions and no reservations about expressing them. In such company, Williams appeared a wallflower, seemingly wishing to be anywhere but in the midst of their arguments. Yet, one-on-one, Williams had an incisive wit and a dry sarcasm—discussions with him were always stimulating and provocative as he never missed a chance to challenge one’s thinking, sometimes quite pointedly.

To some, Williams’s work came across as old-fashioned. His subject, systematics — the study of the evolutionary relationships of species—is among the oldest in science, and his papers — florid and opinionated and, above all, long—recalled an approach to scholarship no longer in vogue. Yet much of his work was boldly innovative; some papers are still widely cited, and in several cases his work was well ahead of its time, presaging approaches to the study of evolutionary biology that were not to catch on for several decades.

Ernest Edward Williams was born January 7, 1914, in Easton, Pennsylvania, the only child of middle-aged parents. Like many boys, particularly of that time, he grew up loving nature and spent many hours capturing salamanders and other creatures. After attending Lafayette College, Williams joined the Army, serving in Europe during World War II. Upon his return, Williams entered graduate school at Columbia University, where he was the last graduate student of the great anatomist William King Gregory.

Williams’s doctoral thesis focused on the structure of the neck vertebrae of turtles and how variation among species reflects their evolutionary heritage. The work demonstrated the combination of careful attention to detail with the ability to interpret results in the broader context that was to characterize Williams’s career. More than fifty years later the work is still foundational in understanding the evolution of turtle diversity.

In 1950, after completing his degree, Williams moved to Harvard, where he initially served as a laboratory coordinator for the anatomy course of the legendary paleontologist Alfred Sherwood Romer, then subsequently was appointed as an assistant professor and made coordinator of a General Education course on evolution. The Museum of Comparative Zoology’s Curator of Herpetology, Arthur Loveridge, retired in 1957, and Williams was appointed to take his place.  In 1970 Williams rose to the rank of professor and in 1972 became Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology.

Williams initially focused on continuing his work on turtle systematics, leading to a series of publications including a still-important treatise published with Loveridge in 1957. Williams soon realized, however, that the museum’s collections were inadequate for the detailed analysis he conceived, which required large samples from many populations. This recognition that the museum’s herpetological collections were wide in scope, but lacking in depth, led Williams in two directions. First, it compelled him to work greatly to expand the Herpetology Department’s holdings, ultimately leading to a quadrupling of the department’s collections (to more than 300,000 specimens) by the time he retired as curator in 1980, making the Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ) one of the greatest herpetological repositories in the world. Second, it led Williams’s attention to focus on lizards in the genus Anolis, a very species-rich group from the Caribbean and Central and South America. A previous curator of herpetology and director of the MCZ, Thomas Barbour, had extensively collected anoles in the Caribbean; Williams, whose focus was much more evolutionarily-oriented than most systematists of the day, recognized that this group could be a model for studying large-scale evolutionary and biogeographical phenomena.

And, indeed, they were, and still are. Continue reading

New Toad Species Discovered in the Dominican Republic

Photo by Miguel Landestoy, from the New Yorker’s website

Well, actually it first came to light during a BBC expedition to film solenodons, but more recent legwork by AA  contributor Miguel Landestoy has rediscovered the animals near Pedernales in western Dominican Republic. Miguel’s efforts are chronicled in a delightful article in the New Yorker.

SICB2015: The Role of Myoblast Fusion in the Evolution of Muscle Fiber Size in Anolis lizards

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Jake Stercula of the Johnson Lab and his 2015 SICB poster

Muscle fiber size can vary based on the frequency of use, or due to the fusion of multiple mononucleated myoblasts during development to form multinucleated fibers. To test if variation in muscle fiber size was due to frequent use or due to differences in development between species, Jacob Stercula of the Johnson lab examined the fiber size and number of nuclei for the ceratohyoid and the retractor penis magnus (RPM) of nine species of anoles. Most species exhibit a positive relationship between fiber size and the number of nuclei in both muscle types. Among species, this positive relationship between fiber size and the number of nuclei exists in the RPM muscle when accounting  for phylogeny using independent contrasts, whereas the ceratohyoid shows a positive trend, though the relationship was not significant. This suggests that for the RPM, muscle fiber size is evolutionarily conserved and is due to differences in development among species rather than differences in the amount of use. The size of the ceratohyoid muscle however, maybe be influenced by both the frequency of use and the fusion of myoblasts during development.

 

Anole Annals 2014: the Year in Blogging

2014 was a good year for AA. 220,000 viewers in 195 countries (and that doesn’t count the 200 subscribers who get each post hand delivered to their email inbox–sign up now!*), 307 new posts, 1570 page views on one day. Guess which post that was? And who do you think the most frequent commenter was, with 76 comments? WordPress has kindly provided a list of information and stats, which you’re welcome to peruse.

 

*to do so, scroll down and look for the subscribe box on the right side of the page

Gliding Lizards Mimic Falling Leaves

A new study out in Biology Letters by myself, Devi Stuart-Fox, Terry Ord and Indraneil Das found that two populations of the same species of gliding lizard – Draco cornutus – have diverged in gliding membrane colouration to match the colours of falling leaves in their respective habitats. An Anole Annals post by Ambika Kamath earlier this year looked at the study briefly after we’d spoken at the Animal Behaviour Conference in Princeton, but I thought I’d elaborate a little on working with Draco and how we devised the falling leaf camouflage hypothesis.

Figure 1. Draco cornutus at Bako National Park (photo credit– Devi Stuart-Fox)

Figure 1. Draco cornutus at Bako National Park (photo credit– Devi Stuart-Fox)

Draco are small arboreal agamids, found throughout South-East Asia. They have extendable gliding membranes that they use for gliding between trees in their habitats. They also have dewlaps – like the Anoles – used in broadcast display to communicate with conspecifics. My work generally focuses on the diversity in dewlap colouration among species and how differences in habitat influence signal efficacy and may lead to speciation. This involves measuring the colours of lizards as well as taking behavioural footage of individuals of different species to look at how the patterns of display differ.

Footage by Terry Ord

Most Draco are very difficult to spot as they are well camouflaged and perch at least 3 metres high in their trees. Given this, searching for movement or displays are the best ways to locate an individual. Walking through the forest, we would often see in our periphery what we would initially dismiss as a falling leaf, only to later discover it was a gliding lizard. Indeed we quickly learnt to focus on ‘falling leaves’ when on the lookout for Draco and this was quite a fruitful approach. Indraneil Das was the first to suggest the gliding membranes were coloured to look like falling leaves – but it was a couple of years until we started to think about how we might test the idea. It became difficult to ignore how similar the fallen leaves on the ground at various study sites so closely resembled the colours and patterns of the gliding membranes of Draco species living in those immediate areas.

Then we made to trip to Niah Caves National Park in northern Borneo and came across a second population of D. cornutus. Continue reading

BSA of Norops lineatopus

Geometric Morphometric Analysis of the Shoulder of Jamaican Anoles

garmani mating trivers IIxBirds are lovely animals. Our avian friends swoop through the air, defecate on field equipment, and consume lizards. What’s not to like?! Well, their shoulder region, for example. Lost interclavicle, reverted muscle pathways, and so many other anatomical adaptations that appear crucial for the modern avian life style, but that are hard to explain in a gradual-evolutionary context. Reconstructing the structural evolution of the avian shoulder remains a challenging task to students of biomechanics and kinematics. When I left my European homestead to enter the Canadian realm of biological sciences, I was hoping to solve the evolutionary mystery of the avian shoulder, at least in part. Alas, the discovery of anoles sent me on a much more convoluted journey.

Here is the first tale that resulted from that endeavour (Tinius & Russell 2014).

Continue reading

SICB2015: Static and Dynamic Visual Displays in Anole Lizards

Michelle Oberndorf of the Johnson Lab (Photo courtesy of the Johnson Lab website)

Anolis visual display can come in two flavors: static and dynamic. Static displays are those that are involve permanent morphological structures, whereas dynamic displays involve movement of physical structures. Michelle Oberndorf of the Johnson lab asked if structures involved in both static display (tail crest) and dynamic display (dewlap size), were related to body condition or fighting ability (head size) in males and females of two species of anoles. She collected SVL, mass, head morphology, tail crest size, and dewlap size data from 50 males and 50 females of A. cristatellus and A. gundlachi. She found that in males, tail crest area was correlated with body condition in A. cristatellus. In male A. gundlachi, tail crest area was correlated with head size, and dewlap size, while dewlap size was correlated with body condition and head size. She found no relationships between any of the traits in females of either species. These results suggest that both the dewlap and the tail crest may communicate information about male quality and potential fighting ability.

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Correlations between morphology and body condition for A. cristatellus and A. gundlachi males. Image from Michelle’s poster.

A Few Interesting Findings from a Recent Parasitology Study, and a Plea to Other Researchers

The uninformed often view parasites with disdain, disgust, and/or condemnation. These views however ignore the various ecological roles that parasites play. My colleagues and I are some of the lucky few who look at these organisms through ecological lenses and marvel at what we find.

An Anolis sagrei male from Chiayi County, southwestern Taiwan.

An Anolis sagrei male from Chiayi County, southwestern Taiwan.

As part of the ongoing research on the exotic invasive brown anole (Anolis sagrei) populations in Taiwan, we collected and examined some specimens for parasites. In addition to the brown anoles, we also examined specimens of Eutropis longicaudata, Eutropis multifasciata, Japalura polygonata xanthostoma, Japalura swinhonis, Plestiodon elegans, and Sphenomorphus indicus, that were collected opportunistically from Taiwan.

We recently reported on the parasites we recorded in 52 of the 91 lizards examined, and the infected individuals harbored one to three species of parasites. We identified the parasites as Cyrtosomum penneri, Kiricephalus pattoni, Mesocoelium sociale, Meteterakis govindi, Oochoristica chinensis, Oswaldocruzia japalurae, Parapharyngodon maplestonei, Pseudabbreviata yambarensis, Pseudoacanthocephalus bufonis, or Strongyluris calotis. We also recorded an unidentifiable acanthocephalan infective juvenile (cystacanth) and an unidentifiable larva of a cestode (sparganum).

Based on the relatively few parasite species recorded from A. sagrei in Taiwan, compared to the large number of parasites reported from A. sagrei throughout its native and introduced range, it is clear that these lizards have been liberated from many of their parasites.

The nematode, Cyrtosomum penneri, which was introduced into Taiwan along with A. sagrei, was a common parasite in the A. sagrei we examined. None were recorded in any of the other lizard species examined. This is most likely because these nematodes are transmitted from one host to another during copulation and appears to have a fair degree of host specificity, so the spread of C. penneri to native lizard species in Taiwan is suggested to be very unlikely. An interesting conclusion that can be drawn from the presence of C. penneri in specimens from both the southwestern and eastern populations of A. sagrei in Taiwan is that sexually mature lizards were introduced into these localities and that they most likely have a common founder population.

Our study did also confirm that the digenean, Mesocoelium sociale, and the pentastome, Kiricephalus pattoni are acquired parasite of A. sagrei in Taiwan. Unfortunately, although their infections can be expected to be detrimental to the A. sagrei host, their infection frequencies are relatively low in the A. sagrei populations in Taiwan, and thus have no observed significant impact on the population sizes.

Another interesting finding of our study was that even though the nematodes, Pseudabbreviata yambarensis and Strongyluris calotis, are very common in Japalura swinhonis, a species that is very often sympatric with A. sagrei in Taiwan and which also has a very similar diet as A. sagrei, they have not been found in any of the A. sagrei examined to date. This could be a result of an absence of transmission routes that could be specific to J. swinhonis and thus protect introduced species from the native parasites, or the host-specific limitations of the parasites prevent them from adapting to a new hosts, i.e., A. sagrei.

I would like to encourage everyone involved with research to include parasitological studies in their herpetological works to expand our understanding of host-parasite ecology.