*The following post was written by Chris Robinson, a Master’s student in Matt Gifford’s lab at the University of Central Arkansas.*
Both between and within ecomorphs, anoles can experience a wide range of temperature conditions. As ectotherms, anoles rely on external conditions to thermoregulate, and therefore species found in different environments may have evolved unique biochemical mechanisms to adapt to their respective environments.
Using both field and laboratory studies, Jake Stercula, an undergraduate working with Michele Johnson at Trinity, is investigating how membrane fluidity, which aids in cell function, of the brain is regulated by temperature and lipid composition. The saturated:unsaturated lipid composition ratio controls cell membrane fluidity, where a higher ratio provides less fluidity. Stercula and colleagues hypothesize that species within a thermal environment (warmer or cooler) will have more similar lipid ratios and fluidity than between thermal environments regardless of ecomorph, and that anoles in warmer thermal environments will have a higher saturated:unsaturated lipid ratio.
To test this, they are conducting three studies. First, they quantified body temperature of anoles from warmer and cooler areas within the grass-bush, trunk-crown, and trunk-ground ecomorphs in Puerto Rico (Figure 1). Second, to test for lipid composition plasticity, A. carolinensis male and female pairs were housed in either a 26°C or 35°C room (6 pairs in each). After six weeks, the lizards were sacrificed and their brains were collected to quantify the lipid composition ratio using mass spectroscopy at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. Finally, to quantify membrane fluidity, they are growing astrocytes from A. carolinensis at 28°C and 35°C and predict that astrocytes from the warmer condition will be less fluid than those from the cooler condition.
This study could provide novel insight into how anole species have adapted to their thermal conditions. We look forward to seeing the rest of the results!