I have now compiled the results of the survey I previously posted here on Anole Annals. I asked readers at what point on the image below would they stop counting scales if conducting toepad scale counts?
As expected, there was a lot of disagreement! However despite some confusion, scale 32, roughly coinciding with the joining of the second to the third phalanx, was a clear favourite (Fig 2, below) (see Kevin De Quieroz’s comment here regarding some confusion with phalanx numbering).
However, I was most interested in the demography of the surveyors. I have met other graduate students confused about this topic, and relevant guidance material seems limited to anecdotes. Would we then expect there to be most confusion among contributors who have never published scale count data?
The majority (60%) of votes from published researchers fell among scales 32-33, suggesting fairly high agreement on the general area. Only 40% of non-published voters selected these scales, with moderate confusion from scales 24-33 (although a peak at 32 did mirror those of published researchers). Too few votes from researchers that had published but not conducted scale counts themselves were collected to be interpretable.
This survey was not intended to standardize the position at which researchers should conduct toepad scale counts. The functional significance of toepads changes between species, and therefore that should be an important consideration in respect to the ecological/evolutionary question at hand. Those votes towards the higher end of the spectrum (scales 50-51, comprising a scale count of the entire digit) could be important data for species identification and morphological taxonomy. There could be an opportunity for a neat review/methods paper here, contact me if you are interested in more details!