It’s Time to Retire the Use of the Term “Squamate” from Public Discourse

Let’s face it, “squamate” doesn’t work. It’s an ugly word, and most people don’t know what it means–if anything, it conjures up “squamous cell carcinoma,” a type of skin cancer.

Slide1 More importantly, the term is not needed. Squamate comes from the scientific order Squamata, the lizards and snakes. But we know that snakes evolved from lizards–they are one type of lizard. In other words, lizards do not form a monophyletic group; they are paraphyletic with respect to snakes.

Does this remind you of any other major group of vertebrate? Say, birds and dinosaurs? We all know that birds evolved from dinosaurs, they are a type of dinosaur; dinosaurs are paraphyletic with respect to birds. And so, what is the solution to this problem? We now realize that birds are dinosaurs, members of the Dinosauria. Indeed, failing to recognize birds as a type of dinosaur commits the sin of paraphyly, obscuring the fact that some dinosaurs (in the old sense) are more closely related to birds than they are to some other dinosaurs.

And so, for the same reason, we should start referring to snakes as one type of lizards and, in turn, when we use the term “lizard,” we should understand that we are referring to snakes as well. In other words “Lizard” = Squamata. And, hence, we have no need to use the term “squamate” in common discourse.

 

How Anoles Sense Heat

Ahh, that warmth feels good.

We all know that many anoles species are very good at behaviorally regulating their body temperature by moving from an area that is too hot or too cold to another area that is just right. But how do they actually judge the thermal properties of a particular microsite? There’s been a lot of work on the sensation of temperature in mammals, but not so much in reptiles.

Recently, Erkin Kurganov and colleagues at the National Institutes of Natural Sciences, in Okazaki, Japan began to rectify this shortcoming, and their paper has just been published in Pflügers Archiv – European Journal of Physiology. Here’s the abstract: 

Transient receptor potential ankyrin 1 (TRPA1) is a member of the large TRP super family of ion channels and functions as a Ca2+-permeable nonselective cation channel that is activated by various noxious stimuli. TRPA1 was initially identified as a potential mediator of noxious cold stimuli in mammalian nociceptive sensory neurons, while TRPA1s from nonmammalian vertebrates (snakes, green anole lizards, and frogs) were recently reported to be activated by heat, but not cold stimulus. In this study, we examined detailed properties of the green anole TRPA1 channel (gaTRPA1) related to thermal and chemical stimulation in whole-cell and single-channel recordings. Heat activates gaTRPA1 with a temperature threshold for activation of 35.8 °C, while heat together with allyl isothiocyanate (AITC), a chemical agonist, had synergistic effects on gaTRPA1 channel activation in that either the temperature threshold or activating AITC concentration was reduced in the presence of the other stimulus. Significant heat-evoked gaTRPA1 activation was observed in the presence but not absence of extracellular Ca2+. gaTRPA1 channels were also activated by heat and AITC in excised membrane patches with an inside-out configuration. By comparing the kinetics of heat- and AITC-evoked singlechannel currents, we defined similarities and differences of gaTRPA1 channel responses to heat and AITC. We observed similar current-voltage relationship and unitary amplitudes for heat- and AITC-evoked currents and found that heat-activated currents showed shorter durations of both open and closed times. Our results suggest that the gaTRPA1 channel is directly activated by heat and chemical stimuli.

 

Help Identify Haitian Anoles

IMG_9308Ron Savage, who works for USAID and is currently posted in Haiti, reports “I haven’t been getting out herping in Haiti much since I sold my car but today I managed to go out and check out some relictual forest (at about 2,700 ft elev.) not too far from Port au Prince and photographed these two anoles. This is the first time that I’ve seen this species in Haiti or the DR come to think of it. They were both up a tree about 15-20 feet and I would say that they were both about 8-9″ long including their tails. As you can see, one has a stump tail. He was higher in the tree keeping his eye on the greener one. I honestly don’t know what these are, do you have any idea? It could actually be two species. I’m not familiar with A. ricordii, but I suppose this could be one.”

IMG_9268

Spotlight on Cuban Anoles, Part II: Anolis lucius

_1040720
Find this week’s anole!

Before leaving for Cuba, Martha and I discussed our anole wish-list. Figuring prominently were Cuba’s legendary sister-species, A. bartschi and A. vermiculatus. Also swiftly declared were the beautiful A. allisoni and anything in the erstwhile genus Chamaeleolis (alas, we found none of the snail-eating giants). However, I must admit — I had no idea A. lucius existed until I first laid eyes on it!

_1040717

After encountering A. lucius in a patch of mature forest along a slow-moving stream, my first impression was that it looked and behaved like a trunk anole, if trunk anoles were 150% bigger and had zebra stripes on their heads. Indeed, at the first locality we encountered them, they seemed to favor perching head-down on trunks 1-3m high (with one individual spotted almost 5m high.)

_1040754

Although I’m still fond of my initial diagnosis of “giant zebra-headed A. distichus,” we proceeded to encounter A. lucius in a variety of other habitats. For instance, we found them scrambling over limestone karst and taking refuge in sea cliff caves on Cuba’s southern coast, a habit described in Schwartz & Henderson’s Amphibians and Reptiles of the West Indies. Later I would wonder what A. bartschi, were it to occur syntopically, would have to say about that.

~5m up a tree

~5m up a tree

~2m below ground

~2m below ground

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also found A. lucius near human habitation, on the streets of Trinidad and the home of a coffee farmer in Cuba’s Topes de Collantes nature reserve park.

_1050297

So it seems clear that this anole is jack of at least a few trades. But wait, there’s more!

A. lucius has a bizarre trait, one that’s shared with a close relative already featured on Anole Annals, A. argenteolus. Can you guess what it is? If you guessed translucent scales on the lower eyelid, you win! The function of these “shades” is not entirely clear, with one obvious idea being that they block harsh sunlight. For what it’s worth, we almost never saw A. lucius close its eyes during the day.

Anolis lucius is one cool anole

Anolis lucius: pretty much obligated to wear its sunglasses at night

A. lucius was, dare I say, a dark-horse third-place finisher on the list of coolest species we managed to see. I’ll (probably) finish off the top three next time with A. vermiculatus!

_1040772

 

PS
Anoles with sunglasses…just stop, evolution.

Is That an Anolis porcatus in Miami?

Photo by Jake Scott

Some people think so, such as this posting on the Association of South Eastern Herpetogists website. I have my doubts about the presence of porcatus in Florida. Anolis carolinensis, after all, is derived from A. porcatus. In reality, it is simply a population of A. porcatus, perhaps smaller than most of their Cuban comrades. Suppose for some reason A. carolinensis started growing larger–wouldn’t they look like the green anoles on Cuba? Anyone have thoughts on whether Cuban porcatus are really in Florida and, if so, how easy it is to identify them?

Photo by Christopher Kirby

Here’s another putative porcatus, this one photographed by Christopher Kirby. Those heads are pretty mean looking, I’ll grant that. Several other photos are also on the ASEH website.

Aggressive Behavior Is Rarely the Result of Circulating Testosterone Levels

Anolis cybotes, one of the species included in Husak and Lovern, still showing its dewlap during copulation.

Anolis cybotes, one of the species included in Husak and Lovern’s study, still showing its dewlap during copulation.

If I were to take survey of Anole Annals readers regarding the factors that regulate aggressive and showy behaviors, I suspect that the vast majority of you would implicate testosterone as the primary culprit. Whether we are discussing humans or nearly any other vertebrate, there is a common societal notion that testosterone fuels these behaviors like oxygen fuels fire. The widespread belief is simple: individuals with more testosterone tend to exhibit more aggressive, ostentatious, and risky behaviors.

For decades researchers have investigated the link between testosterone and behavior in a variety of biological contexts – including different behaviors, experimental manipulations, environmental conditions, and life history parameters – but rarely in wild animals or within an evolutionary context. If the supposed testosterone-behavior correlation is extended to a broader, comparative context, it would suggest that aggressive species should also have higher levels of circulating testosterone than more placid species. But, in an upcoming paper, Husak and Lovern test the testosterone-behavior supposition among Anolis lizards and, quite frankly, turn it right on its head. To give away their conclusion at the outset, three of the four “aggressive” anole lineages examined have evolved this behavior without a clear correlation with circulating levels of testosterone.

Anolis lizards are renowned for their convergent anatomical evolution (reviewed in Lizards in an Evolutionary Tree), but these species have also independently evolved similar behaviors. In a study that was one of the first of its kind, Johnson et al. showed that the Anolis ecomorphs exhibit evolutionary convergence towards similar patterns of aggressive display and territorial behaviors. Trunk-ground anoles tended to be the most “aggressive” ecomorphs, consistently exhibiting higher display rates and  territoriality than the trunk-crown, grass-bush, or twig ecomorphs. Twig species tended to exhibit the least aggressive behavior in the analysis. (Also see Ord et al. 2013 for a more fine-scale dissection of display behavior.) Using this pattern of convergent behavior as a foundation, Husak and Lovern predicted that trunk-ground anoles would have higher levels of circulating testosterone than other ecomorphs from the same island, twig anoles the least. The absolute levels of testosterone might vary depending on the specific lineage in question, but they predicted that the rank-order of testosterone on each island would follow the behavioral continuum described in Johnson et al. In total the authors surveyed circulating levels of testosterone and corticosterone, an adrenal steroid hormone associated with stress, in 18 Anolis species!

Figure 1 from Husak and Lovern 2014: Circulating testosterone levels in 18 species of Caribbean Anolis lizards. Bars group by ecomorph classification (CG= crown giant, GB= grass-bush, T= trunk, TC = trunk-crown, TG = trunk-ground, TW= twig) and color coded by island (white = Bahamas, light gray = Jamaica, dark gray = Dominican Republic, black = Puerto Rico).

Figure 1 from Husak and Lovern 2014: Circulating testosterone levels in 18 species of Caribbean Anolis lizards. Bars group by ecomorph classification (CG= crown giant, GB= grass-bush, T= trunk,
TC = trunk-crown, TG = trunk-ground, TW= twig) and color coded by island (white = Bahamas, light gray = Jamaica, dark gray = Dominican Republic, black = Puerto Rico).

As I already stated, the authors found no support for the idea that elevated levels of circulating testosterone consistently drive aggressive behavior in Anolis lizards. Instead they found that three out of the four clades of trunk-ground anoles had the lowest levels of testosterone, the opposite pattern than would be predicted based on their behavior. Continue reading

Crown-giant habitat overlap

Spring is the season for spotting crown-giant anoles in Miami!

I was hosting (recently graduated Lacertid-ophile, although closet anologist) Dr. Robert Heathcote for a few days this week, and after his failed attempt at catching a Cuban knight anole (A. equestris) a fortnight previous, I had promised to deliver him another! Now, I imagine many AA readers may chuckle at someone foolish enough to promise a crown-giant observation (myself included). Much to my relief luck was on our side and we managed to spot not one, but TWO species practically on top of each other!

test 2

A Cuban knight anole (A. equestris) and Jamaican giant anole (A. garmani) perched within 1-2m of each other in Miami FL – April 2nd 2014, JStroud

Cuban knight anoles (A. equestris) and Jamaican giant anoles (A. garmani) are both non-native introduced species to south Florida.

test 1

A. equestris (left) and A. garmani (right) – habitat overlap in Miami FL, JStroud

New St. Lucian Anole?

St.Lucian Anole

St.Lucian Anole

I was recently in St.lucia travelling around photo-documenting the local Anolis luciae which seem to be rapidly being displaced by the invasive A. wattsi from Antigua. While exploring the southwestern town of Soufriere, I came upon a few specimens of this species in the backyard workshop of the sculptor host of mine.
I have showed the photos to a few herpetologists at UWI (St. Augustine) and they are as baffled as I am; for the closest-looking possibility, A. richardi, native to Grenada and the Grenadines, is not noted to have migrated this far north.
Any takes on what species it could possibly be?

Lizard Olympics in Sports Illustrated 25 Years Ago Today

From the pages of Sports Illustrated, 25 years ago today

From the pages of Sports Illustrated, 25 years ago today

Sports Illustrated-2

That’s my thumb! Ain’t she a beauty?

A few months ago, I ran into Nicholas Dawidoff, the author of the fabulous new book Collision Low Crossers: A Year Inside the Turbulent World of NFL Football. Seeing Nicholas reminded me of the article he wrote for Sports Illustrated at the very dawn of his writing career, 25 years ago today. The article was on the then developing field of performance studies, measuring the sprinting, jumping, clinging and other capabilities of small ectotherms, and featuring none other than yours truly, as well as Ray Huey, Al Bennett, and Sharon Emerson. Written tongue-in-cheek, but accurately and respectfully, the article was a very nice overview of that emerging field of study. It’s worth checking out the article just to see the wacky pictures taken by the SI photographer sent out on assignment to Seattle and Berkeley.

Inexplicably, the article didn't make the cover

Inexplicably, the article didn’t make the cover

What Does The Dewlap Say?

Cusick_FL_sagrei_1dewlapIf you followed the barrage of blogposts we wrote from SICB 2014, you might recall some discussion of the information actually conveyed by anole displays and dewlaps (1, 2). The upshot of these studies is that anole displays are complex. We see unexpected relationships between various traits and the probability of success in male-male competition, and different traits correlate with different measures of male success. A recent study by Steffen and Guyer (2014) adds to our growing knowledge of the information conveyed by different dimensions of multimodal anole displays. When viewed together with previous research, this study presents us with an even messier picture than before of how Anolis lizards communicate with each other.

Steffen and Guyer (2014) set up paired competitions between size-matched male Anolis sagrei in a lab setting, implementing two treatments–males either compete for access to a single perch, or for mating access to a single female. All interactions were recorded, and display behaviours–headbobs, push-ups, dewlap extensions–were quantified. Further, the spectral reflectance of both the centre and the margin of the dewlap (which can be strikingly different in A. sagrei) was also measured. The question asked by the paper was straighforward: which display and dewlap traits are related to an individual lizard’s status as a winner or loser of competitions?

In both competitive contexts, only two traits seem to be important–a composite axis of behavioural variation, and one of three composite axes describing the colour of the margin of the dewlap. Lizards who headbob, push-up, and extend their dewlaps more during competitive interactions are more likely to win than lizards who display less. Curiously, lizards with lower UV reflectance of the dewlap margin are more likely to win than lizards with brightly UV-reflecting dewlap margins.

Of the two variables, display behaviour was more highly correlated with the probability of success than dewlap margin UV-reflectiveness. I’m curious about how the two variables are themselves related–do lizards  that display more also have less bright dewlap margins? The authors propose that a dewlap’s reflectance might relate to its conspicuousness, and it would be interesting to know if different individuals are conspicuous in different ways.

Each of the studies conducted so far on how anoles convey information to each other has examined different dewlap and display variables, studied different competitive contexts, and used different measures of male quality. It therefore isn’t surprising that we seem far from reaching a consensus on what the dewlap says.

 

 

Anoles and The Invasion

Book cover from the Animorphs series book 1, The Invasion by K.A.Applegate Photo fro wikipedia

Book cover from the Animorphs series book 1, The Invasion by K.A.Applegate.Published 1996
Photo from wikipedia

Recognize that Lizard?

I actually read this book a long time ago, I loved the series; basically the premise was that a bunch of children were given a space cube by an alien that allowed them to change into any animal for two hours. The kids would then use the abilities of these animals to thwart the various plans of a race of alien, mind-controlling parasitic slugs.The idea was original and the books were an interesting read too.

The picture on the cover is of one of the main characters morphing into a Cuban (specifically mentioned) green anole; unfortunately, I don’t remember what it was that he did with this morph.

Anoles have it tough in south Florida!

A common concept in ecology is that predators have a strong influence on the behaviour of prey species. Anolis lizards have been used as a classic model system to investigate the effect of predator presence on the behavioural response of prey species. On small experimental islands in the Bahamas the manipulated introduction of curly-tailed lizards (Leiocephalus carinatus), a large terrestrial anole-predator, has resulted in brown anoles (Anolis sagrei) shifting higher up in the vegetation, presumably in an understandable effort to avoid being eaten (1, 2, 3). However, predator-prey interactions such as these which may shape community structure are often difficult to observe.

Here in Miami FL we have a rich and diverse, although largely non-native, lizard community. There are two species of “crown-giant” anoles, the Cuban knight anole (A. equestris) and the Jamaican giant anole (A. garmani), that could be potential predators of smaller anoles in the canopy of trees and upper half of tree trunks (although see Giery et al. 2013 for an empirical analysis that suggests this may not be the case). Additionally, there are several large, terrestrial lizards present which may be filling a similar role to curly-tails in the Bahamas.

Potential lizard predators in south Florida:

- *Red-headed agama (Agama agama)
- *Cuban knight anole (Anolis equestris)
- Jamaican giant anole (Anolis garmani)
- *Brown basilisk (Basiliscus vittatus)
- Spiny tailed iguana (Ctenosaura similis)
- Curly-tail lizard (Leiocephalus carinatus)
- Giant day gecko (Phelsuma grandis)
- Black and white tegu (Tupinambis merianae)

*Present at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens

Earlier this afternoon, while taking a break from my office at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens (a hot spot for any anologist visiting Miami; 1, 2, 3, 4) in a typical graduate student effort to put off work that I should be doing instead, fellow lab member Evan Rehm and I noticed some scuffling in a nearby bush. At around 2.5m, and admittedly on relatively precarious branches by this stage, sat an adult female African red-headed agama (A. agama) around 30cm from an adamantly motionless adult male Cuban brown anole (A. sagrei)! As we moved towards the bush the agama was quick to ungraciously thump itself to the floor, while the brown anole remained still. On closer inspection, it soon became apparent why both lizards were so high.

text2

Adult male Cuban brown anole (A. sagrei) found ~2.5m high in Miami FL, supposedly following a predation attempt from an African red-headed agama (A. agama) – JStroud

The significance of tail loss/damage in a population is still debated. The classical view argues that high proportions of tail damage indicates high predation pressure, therefore prey populations are under high predation stress (1). Alternatively, high proportions of tail damage could indicate low predator efficiency, which would suggest prey populations are experiencing low predation stress (1, 2). But the debate doesn’t stop there! Having already lost a tail, a lizard may experience either a resulting increase or decrease in predation depending on the predator species and its associated foraging tactic (1).

text2

The extent of tail damage is clearer in this photo. The lizard had autotomised the lower half of it’s tail however a secondary half-completed break is also evident – JStroud

African red-headed agamas (A. agama) are similar morphologically to curly-tailed lizards (L. carinatus), although are taxonomically distinct (Agamidae and Leiocephalidae, respectively). Predation of anoles by agamas in Miami has not previously been officially recorded, and the impact of these large predators remains unclear. Unlike in the Bahamas, there are multiple predators in the same geographic vicinity that anoles need to be aware of. For example, at Fairchild, brown anoles (A. sagrei) could be eaten from below by agamas, eaten at intermediate levels by basilisks and eaten from above by knight anoles!

South Florida is a tough place to be an anole!

agama

Adult male African red-headed agama (A. agama) at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens, Miami FL. The population of agamas is localised to the botanical gardens; the source remains unclear but is likely an introduction from the pet trade – JStroud

Spotlight on Cuban Anoles, Part I: Anolis bartschi

A juvenile Anolis bartschi scampers up a limestone boulder.

A juvenile Anolis bartschi scampers up a limestone boulder.

Recently, frequent Anole Annals contributor Martha Muñoz and I had the opportunity to visit Cuba as part of a licensed trip through the Harvard Museum of Natural History. During our two weeks on the island, we visited many localities and had the opportunity to photograph and observe some of Cuba’s most beautiful anoles. In the coming weeks, I’ll be spotlighting some of our favorites. All images presented are © Shea Lambert 2014.

First up: Cuba’s Western cliff anole, Anolis bartschi.
Continue reading

Decoupled Muscle Activity and Kinematics in Green Anoles (Anolis carolinensis): New Research by Kathleen Foster and Tim Higham

Anolis carolinensis.  Photo taken by Kathleen Foster.

Anolis carolinensis. Photo taken by Kathleen Foster.

Anoles are the indisputable poster children of ecomorphology.  Morphological, behavioral, and performance data support classification of Anolis species into discrete ecomorphs on the Greater Antilles islands.  In a large part, the basis of this classification is due to variables (e.g. limb length) that relate to differing locomotor abilities (i.e. speed and/or stability) on the various substrates that comprise the different areas of the arboreal habitat.  However, until recently, we knew nothing about how the muscles that power locomotion in these species relate to their ability to cope with the challenges of moving in these different microhabitats.

In a recent paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, we used a combination of electromyography and 3D high-speed video to examine the impact of perch diameter and incline on limb kinematics and muscle activity in Anolis carolinensis. Our previous study in the Journal of Experimental Biology found a number of kinematic changes (e.g. increased limb flexion and depression) associated with increased stability on narrow surfaces, and we hypothesized increased recruitment in the muscles associated with those movements. Interestingly, this was not the case. Despite considerable kinematic modulation with change in perch diameter (63% of the 32 kinematic variables were significantly affected by perch diameter), there was very little change in muscle activity (2% of the 100 muscle activity variables). This decoupling of kinematics and muscle function raises a number of very interesting questions relating to the sensitivity of these muscles to changes in operating length and the degree to which this species is specialized for a particular microhabitat. It also highlights the complexity of the physiological basis of animal locomotion and emphasizes the need for caution when attempting to infer motor control from kinematics and vice versa.

An additional result that may significantly impact identification of habitat preference in Anolis lizards relates to the importance of variability, as opposed to magnitude, of muscle activity in describing the differences in how this species handled the different substrate conditions. Specifically, the muscles examined were less variable on the broad perch compared to the narrow perch and on the vertically, as opposed to horizontally, inclined perch. Locomotor stereotypy is generally believed to reflect locomotor specialization, although reduced variation of in muscle activity may also be achieved as a byproduct of near-maximal muscle recruitment. However, we have little support for this second option, as the muscles were neither approaching maximal stimulation nor vastly different in overall magnitude or recruitment. Therefore the greater stereotypy of muscle activity seen in the green anole as it moved on the broad, vertical condition may reflect a physiological preference for tree trunks, rather than the narrower and shallower substrates that comprise (on average) the trunk-crown region to which it is traditionally assigned.

It is clear that there remains a wealth of knowledge waiting to be unearthed in the Anolis system and this paper barely scratches the surface. It emphasizes how little we understand about the complex nature of animal locomotion and the relationship between the muscles that power locomotion and the movements we observe in the field. And the possibility that variability of muscle activity might be a useful tool to identify functional preference for microhabitat is tantalizing and deserves further attention, especially if it can be applied usefully to mainland Anolis species. The remainder of my dissertation will focus on fleshing out these and other aspects of muscle function through the comparison of ecomorphs of the Greater Antilles.

Kathleen L. Foster & Timothy E. Higham.  (2012).  How forelimb and hindlimb function changes with incline and perch diameter in the green anole, Anolis carolinensis.  Journal of Experimental Biology  215: 2288-2300. (DOI: 10.1242/jeb.069856)

Kathleen L. Foster & Timothy E. Higham.  (2014).  Context-dependent changes in motor control and kinematics during locomotion: modulation and decoupling.  Proceedings of the Royal Society B  281: 20133331. (DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.3331)

Transgenerational Effects Of Nutrition Observed In Anolis sagrei

Mothers affect the quality of their offspring. As humans, this seems obvious. For example, expecting mothers often take prenatal vitamins, limit their consumption of certain foods, and avoid kitty litter knowing that these minor environmental factors can affect the normal development of the fetus. Related statements could be made for the relationship of a mother and child after birth. Understanding the precise effects that parents have on their offspring has been of great interest to biologists from many disciplines as they disentangle the genetic and environmental factors that underlie differential survival and reproduction for individuals within a population (fitness). Because Anolis lizards can be easily maintained in captivity and their eggs readily manipulated they provide a useful model for the examination of maternal effects. Warner and Lovern took advantage of these qualities and tested the role of maternal body condition on offspring quality in the brown anole, Anolis sagrei.

A. sagrei from Cayman Brac

A. sagrei from Cayman Brac

Nutritional stress is a well-studied example of how maternal condition may affect juvenile quality; if the mother is malnourished the quality of her egg yolk may suffer, which, in turn, affects embryonic development. The authors tested this hypothesis in A. sagrei by manipulating the amount of food gravid females received, feeding approximately 168 crickets per lizard in a “high-prey” treatment versus 84 crickets in a “low-prey” treatment distributed over 11 weeks. During this time the authors carefully assessed the number and size (mass) of the eggs and, subsequently, the quality (mass-and-snout to vent length) of the hatchlings. Impressively, the authors didn’t stop there. They also experimentally manipulated the amount of nutrition in a subset of eggs by removing yolk with a syringe. Followed by a battery of statistical models, this study is quite a nice physiological analysis that has evolutionary implications.

When comparing the two diet regimes, Warner and Lovern found that body condition does affect the quality of offspring; females maintained on the “low-prey” diet produced eggs 6.6% smaller than females raised on the “high-prey” diet. In turn, smaller eggs also tended to hatch more quickly and smaller eggs produced smaller hatchlings, both probably due to the lower amount of available nutrition (paradoxically, neither incubation time or hatchling mass was directly correlated with maternal prey availability). Low prey availability also results in hatchlings with slower growth rates. The experimental reduction of egg yolk supports the results of the prey availability study: hatchlings from yolk-reduced females were 8% shorter and 23% lighter and grew more slowly than those hatched from unmanipulated eggs. It is clear from their results that nutrition has an effect on hatchling quality well into life, after the obvious maternal effects have passed. There are a number of other interesting correlations (and statistical caveats) described within the text that may also be of interest to some readers.

Figure 5 from Warner and Lovern 2014.

Figure 5 from Warner and Lovern 2014.

What is becoming clear from studies like these is that environmental stressors can have lasting effects on organismal development that transcend generational boundaries. Mechanistic studies, such as those on the American alligator, illustrate that these effects are mediated by heritable methylation patterns of key regulatory genes. The stressors do not need to be long lasting; physiological responses can result from acute events that occur within key developmental windows, often when a particular organ is maturing. While stressing the embryo too far results in abnormal embryonic development, more subtle effects may not arise until late in life or subsequent generations. Anoles, and A. sagrei in particular, may provide a number of opportunities for environmental health research in the future. Studies such as the one described above could be performed to more precisely dissect the organ-specific effects of maternal nutritional stress or whether the effects dissipate with age. Similar to the alligator studies, eggs laid in polluted soils may allow opportunities for developmental toxicology research. Growing genomic resources may allow for examination of genome-wide and gene-specific methylation patterns within and outside of polluted habitats. The possibilities are broad and the impact cannot be predicted at this time, but the potential is there for much more detailed mechanistic research on the relationship between developmental physiology and the environment.

New Guide on How to Preserve Material for Genetic Studies

herp book cover

Blurb: “This guide will allow nearly everyone with an interest in amphibians and reptiles to collect and store samples for genetic analyses. It is written at a level appropriate for people with a basic background in biology, including professional scientists moving into a new project as well as wildlife managers, conservation biologists, ecologists, and others working on herpetological projects. The book should also be useful for advanced undergraduates and graduate students just starting their research careers.”

See more at the SSAR book website.

Price: $11

Call for Assistance: Anolis sagrei

Hi Everyone, a quick post to see if anyone out there is interested in contributing to a large ongoing project on Anolis sagrei. We are sampling this species throughout the (mostly) native range, and currently have 77 sampling locations represented. However, we are wondering if anyone would be able to help us fill some remaining gaps.
We are interested in adding additional tissue samples from Central America and the Bahamas. Here is an approximate range map with some desired localities (in blue):

R Graphics Output

Any help is greatly appreciated. I realize that collecting tissues (not to mention all the paperwork) is not a trivial task, so if you are interested in contributing samples please get in touch with me. We will keep AA posted on this project!