Jumping Without The Tail Is Bad For An Anole, And It Might Not Get Better

ResearchBlogging.orgAn interesting paper in 2009 showed us that jumping without a tail can be a disaster for green anoles. In that paper, the authors found that the bodies of tailless individuals often underwent extensive posterior rotations in the air, resulting in very awkward landings. Moreover, tail regeneration can take months to complete, which implies that losing stability in the air may not be a short term situation. So we wondered: can green anoles quickly improve in-air stability, or do they just have to wait until they have their tails back again? To address this question, we tested in a recent study whether tailless green anoles can improve in-air stability in five week’s time and whether gaining more jumping experience facilitates the improvement.

We found that there was extensive variation in how much an individual could improve within five week’s time. By the end of our study period, some individuals showed no sign of improvement,

whereas others did improve their in-air stability as time went by.

Interestingly, the acquisition of more jumping experience did not seem to matter. Lizards with more jumping experience on average did not do better than those without. It appeared that the motor coordination capacity of an individual might be the most relevant factor for locomotor recovery in tailless green anoles. Our finding suggested that the cost of tail loss might be very different among individuals in natural populations. It would be very interesting to perform a manipulative field study to see whether individuals that are unable to improve in-air stability alter their habitat use and movement patterns to a greater extent to avoid jumping.

CHI-YUN KUO, GARY B. GILLIS and DUNCAN J. IRSCHICK (2012). Take this broken tail and learn to jump: the ability to recover from reduced in-air stability in tailless green anole lizards [Anolis carolinensis (Squamata: Dactyloidae)] Biological Journal of the Linnean Society DOI: 10.1111/j.1095-8312.2012.01958.x

About Chi-Yun Kuo

I am a Postdoctoral Associate in Sheila Patek's lab at Duke University. My research integrates laboratory experiments, fieldwork and theoretical modeling to address how ecology shapes adaptive variation in morphology and performance.

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