The insulin signaling network has an essential role in growth, reproduction, and aging. Insulin-like growth factors, or IGFs, are important protein hormones within this network and are typically conserved across vertebrates. However, some proteins in the insulin signaling network have experienced selection in reptiles. Also, not a whole lot is known about the specific functions of components of this network within reptiles.
Amanda Clark, a PhD student in Dr. Tonia Schwartz‘s lab at Auburn University, investigated the the function of purified IGFs on cell function for brown anoles (Anolis sagrei) and crested anoles (Anolis cristatellus). She had five different treatments for cell plates from both species: brown anole (BA) IGF-1, BA IGF-2, green anole IGF-1, a positive control, and a negative control. Cell proliferation was not different among all of the treatments, possibly due to incorrect protein folding or low concentrations of IGF. As expected, cell viability was also not affect by the IGFs. In the future, this experiment will be conducted again with increased sample size and an improved positive control.
Urbanization changes many factors, such as temperature and food availability, that influence body size in animals. Last year at SICB, Zach Chejanovski presented on this topic in brown anoles from Miami (Anolis sagrei). He found that predator (curly-tailed lizards) abundance was highly associated with body size in anoles. As predator abundance increases, anole body size increases. Chejanovski, a PhD student at the University of Rhode Island, then formed a new question based on his previous findings: Are larger anoles actually predated on less often than smaller anoles?
Male brown anole showing his dewlap. Photo by Renata Brandt
To answer this question, Chejanovski performed a tethered intruder experiment with male brown anoles of variable sizes. For each trial, he tied an anole at the end of a pole and presented the anole to a curly-tailed lizard. He then recorded the amount of time for the predator to get within 20 cm of the anole. Results from a survival analysis show that smaller lizards were attacked more often and more quickly than larger anoles. According to this experiment, larger body size in brown anoles results in less predation from curly-tailed lizards. However, is body size genetically determined?
Chejanovski then set up a common garden experiment with female anoles from urban sites with and without curly-tailed lizards. Eggs were collected from these anoles, incubated, and allowed to hatch. Hatchlings were raised in identical lab conditions and measured for body size to calculate growth rate. Male anoles from predator sites grew faster than males from non-predator sites. These results suggest that body size has some genetic control in males. However, female growth rates did not differ between sites. The discrepancy between sexes may be due to different selective pressures, such as sexual selection. This work highlights the importance of body size in urban environments with predators.