SICB 2014: Micro-landscape Variation in Reproduction

It was a real pleasure to see Dr. Ray Huey give a presentation that was inspired by research he and his collaborators began in the 1970s on seasonality of reproduction and behavioral thermoregulation in Puerto Rican Anolis cristatellus. Almost 40 years after the publication of that work, Huey and many of the same colleagues (and some new ones) returned to the same areas in Puerto Rico to examine how very fine-scale variation in thermal environment (a few meters!) might lead to variation in reproduction. The investigators (Otero, Huey, and Gorman) studied how reproduction differed between open areas (where lizards carefully thermoregulate) and forested areas (where lizards are thermoconformers) and found striking differences between them. Females in open habitats reproduced most of the year, whereas females in the neighboring forest decreased reproductive in a much more seasonal manner. Differences were largest from October – December, with females in forested habitats essentially shutting down reproduction during those months. This finding was true at two different sites.

These striking differences in reproductive phenology are similar in magnitude to differences seen along elevational gradients, but the difference here is the scale. The females that Huey compared were literally only a few meters away from each other. One important take-home message from these data is that reproduction can vary at the microgeographic scale just as it can at larger geographic scales. While the latter type of study is now common, the former isn’t. Future work should consider how small-scale variation in microhabitat use might influence reproduction so that we can better understand how general this phenomenon is.

One final point that Huey made was how collaborations can not only be an integral part of research, but also a source of personal reward as those collaborations continue over time and result in great friendships. He encouraged young investigators to keep this in mind as they progress through their academic careers.

Editor’s note: this research project has been the subject of previous posts [1,2].

About Jerry Husak

I am an Assistant Professor at the Univeresity of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN. My research focuses on understanding how the processes of natural and sexual selection shape physiological and morphological traits. I study anoles to understand how endocrine systems evolve to modulate social behavior.

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