Reptiles are often thought of as solitary and not social animals. However, all of us who study anoles know that Anolis are anything but solitary animals. Spend a few minutes observing an anole and you might see it dewlapping, doing push-ups, tail wagging, and fighting with other males or even other anoles species. James Stroud, a Ph.D. candidate from the Feeley lab @ Florida International University, presented on Saturday about the exploratory results of a new research method he and Robert Heathcote have started to construct social networks of A. sagrei and A. cristatellus in Miami, Florida. A. sagrei and A. cristatellus are similar in morphology and ecology and they wanted to learn how patterns of social interactions between these two species allow them to coexist outside of their native range.
Individual social behavior manifests itself collectively at the population level and interactions between populations (within and between species) might act as a basis for evolutionary processes. James and Robert tagged both male and female anoles in their study to track and recapture the animals in the future for a long term study. They measured the distance between every two anoles observed and inferred the strength of interaction as stronger if the anoles were closer to each other. Both species show a great web of interactions both within and between species. Some individuals are also much more “bold,” interacting with many males and females of either species, while others show fewer social interactions. These preliminary data are exciting since so little is known about Anolis social behavior. James also mentioned that they will be including additional data such as the types of interactions that will add great complexity and insight to this story.