Do Gray-Dewlapped Green Anoles Display Differently than Pink-Dewlapped Greens?

The gray-dewlapped green anole. Photo by Harry W. Greene

Everyone knows that Florida green anoles have pink dewlaps. However, one population in western Florida has a grayish-green dewlap (see above). Several years ago, AA had two posts on these lizards (1,2). The significance of the gray dewlap remains to be determined. Is this population on the way to becoming a new species?

In a recent paper in Herpetologica, Macedonia and colleagues analyzed the display behavior of the gray-dewlapped population. They found that the gray-dewlappers’ display does differ, though not greatly, from a nearby pink-dewlapped population. However, when they compared their data to yet another pink-dewlapped population, they found that there was greater variation in the displays of the two pink populations than between the gray and pink populations. Thus, it doesn’t seem that the gray-dewlapped population’s behavior is particularly distinctive. What’s up with the gray dewlaps remains to be determined.

Here’s the paper’s abstract:

Green Anoles (Anolis carolinensis) are comprised of red-dewlapped (RD) forms that are found throughout the southeastern USA and a gray-dewlapped (GD) form that is restricted to southwest Florida. Prior research has shown that RD A. carolinensis produce headbob displays of three distinct types that differ primarily in their temporal patterns. Based on known morphological, physiological, and genetic differences between GD and RDpopulations, we hypothesized that these populations also would differ in headbob display structure. To test this hypothesis we quantified 440 displays from 39 males (24 GD and 15 RD) and assigned displays to type using numerical decision criteria. Although comparison of the same display types between GD and RD males revealed differences in the durations of several homologous display units (i.e., bobs or interbob pauses), only one unit differed following statistical correction for multiple comparisons. By taking into account all display variation in both populations simultaneously, however, discriminant function analysis correctly assigned display units with high accuracy to population and display type. Nevertheless, differences in unit durations often were greater between two RD populations occurring within Florida than they were between our GD and RD study populations. Thus, despite our demonstration of differences in the display temporal structure between GD and RD forms of A. carolinensis, these differences appear to be no greater in magnitude than those observed between RD populations.

About Jonathan Losos

Professor and Curator of Herpetology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. I've spent my entire professional career studying anoles and have discovered that the more I learn about anoles, the more I realize I don't know.

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