Hawaii has no native herpetofauna, aside from sea turtles. Human-mediated introductions between the 1950s and 1980s have created an interesting new guild of arboreal and diurnal lizards: the green anole (Anoles carolinensis), the gold dust day gecko (Phelsuma laticauda) and the brown anole (A. sagrei ).
Phelsuma laticauda belongs to a genus that is endemic to Madagascar with almost 50 species, that are known for their incredible color patterns. Anolis carolinensis and P. laticauda are thought to be ecologically similar and thus potential competitors.
Amber Wright’s research investigates whether and how the three species partition their habitat when they occur in sympatry and how that might affect species abundance. Using field observations and morphological data, she found that the three species overlap in body size and habitat use, which suggests that they are potential competitors for food resources and perch sites.
In a pilot study, Amber used seven 10x10m plots to simulate different community scenarios: only one species, two species and all three species. Anolis carolinensis and A. sagrei seem to be interacting similarly to populations outside of Hawaii: coexistence with reduced densities and increased perch heights of A. carolinensis. When all three species were present, P. laticauda perched higher than usual, presumably to avoid competition with A. carolinensis. Future work will focus on long term effects of species composition on resource partitioning and abundance of each species.