JMIH 2016: Herp League Graduate Student Award Winner: Urban Habitat Partitioning by Two Common Species of Puerto Rican Anolis

Kristin Winchell, my fellow lab mate at the Revell lab, presented her work on the habitat use of two urban dwellers in Puerto Rico. Past studies have shown that Anolis cristatellus and Anolis stratulus vary in abundances and use different portions of the natural habitat. As early as 1964, Rand showed that A. stratulus was less abundant and perched higher on trees in forest habitat. Picture1However, we know very little about whether these patterns are maintained in urban areas where species have access to novel manmade structures. To address this, Kristin evaluated the habitat use of these two species across seven urban replicates and contrasted it to the available habitat. She found that urban A. stratulus uses more isolated perches with greater vegetative canopy and perches at higher portions of the habitat. Anolis cristatellus uses perches that are less isolated, shaded mostly by manmade canopy (i.e. buildings and houses) and at lower heights. When examining these patterns in a multidimensional space, she showed that A. cristatellus has expanded its urban niche through the use of manmade structures, while A. stratulus uses a subset of the natural portion of the habitat that A. cristatellus also uses.

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Her research shows that these two urban dwellers interact with the novel portions of the habitat differently. Anolis cristellus has expanded its niche towards manmade structures which has implications for adaptation to enhance stability and locomotion when using these structures as shown in some of her previous work (Winchell, et al, 2016).  Anolis stratulus uses the less available remnants of the natural habitat which may have implication for conservation if they become sparser as urbanization expands.

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