The influence of habitat use on ecological and evolutionary patterns in Anolis lizards is well documented. Despite extensive work on interspecific variation, how habitat use varies within a species is relatively understudied.
As part of my master’s work in Dan Warner’s lab, we caught and recorded the perch height, width, and substrate (i.e., ground vs. vegetation) of 717 brown anoles (A. sagrei) on a small island in the Halifax River, near Ormond Beach, Florida. The island consisted of two main habitat types (open-canopy and forest) with an intermediate between the two.
We found that adults used higher (Fig. 1a) and thicker (Fig. 1b) perches than juveniles, and adult males perched higher than adult females (Fig. 1a). Juveniles also occurred more frequently on the ground. Adults may benefit by using more conspicuous perches that increase visibility for social communication whereas juveniles are likely to benefit by using microhabitats that reduce predation-risk. In addition, we found that lizards in the forest used higher (Fig. 1c) and thicker (Fig. 1d) perches than those in the open-canopy and intermediate habitats, likely due to variation in perch availability.
Interestingly, juvenile body size increased throughout habitat zones moving away from the forest, but this trend was reversed for adults (Fig. 2). This may suggest that juveniles hatch in forested habitat (where we have found many nest-sites), migrate out to open-canopy areas to mature, and then move back to the forest as large adults. A similar shift in habitat use has been reported by Stamps for Anolis aeneus (1983).
We also returned three and eight months later to recapture lizards and assess survival. We found that large individuals of both age classes had increased survival from July to October (Fig. 3a & b). Body size did not influence overwinter survival. However, lizards that used relatively low perches had increased overwinter survival (Fig. 3c).
Several factors could be responsible for the age- and sex-specific habitat variation observed in this species. However, future experimental approaches are needed to fully understand the causal factors contributing to this variation. I have conducted two competition experiments and hope to report on those findings in the near future!
The results of this post can be found in:
Delaney, D.M. and D.A. Warner. 2016. Age- and sex-specific variations in microhabitat and macrohabitat use in a territorial lizard. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology doi: 10.1007/s00265-016-2121-3
Stamps, J.A. 1983. The relationship between ontogenetic habitat shifts, competition and predator avoidance in a juvenile lizard (Anolis aeneus). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 12:19-33.