Where Is the Type Locality of Anolis aequatorialis?

A new paper in Zootaxa aims to figure it out, based on the travel journals of its describer, Franz Werner. Here’s the paper’s abstract:

The eminent Austrian zoologist Franz Werner described several new species of amphibians and reptiles from America, including Anolis aequatorialis Werner, 1894 and Hylodes appendiculatus Werner, 1894. Both species were described based on single specimens, with no more specific type localities than “Ecuador” (Werner 1894a,b). After its description, A. aequatorialis remained unreported until Peters (1967) and Fitch et al. (1976) published information on its distribution and natural history. Anolis aequatorialis is currently known to inhabit low montane and cloud forest on the western slopes of the Andes from extreme southern Colombia to central Ecuador, between 1300 and 2300 m elevation (Ayala-Varela & Velasco 2010; Ayala-Varela et al. 2014; Lynch et al. 2014; D.F. Cisneros-Heredia pers. obs.). Likewise, Hylodes appendiculatus (now Pristimantis appendiculatus) remained only known from its type description until Lynch (1971) and Miyata (1980) provided certain localities and information on its natural history. Pristimantis appendiculatus is currently known to occur in low montane, cloud, and high montane forests on the western slopes of the Andes from extreme southern Colombia to northern Ecuador between 1460 and 2800 m elevation (Lynch 1971; Miyata 1980; Lynch & Burrowes 1990; Lynch & Duellman 1997; Frost 2016). To this date, the type localities of both species remain obscure. The purpose of this paper is to restrict the type localities of Hylodes appendiculatus Werner, 1894 and Anolis aequatorialis Werner, 1894 based on analyses of the travel journals of their original collector.

Cuban Anolis porcatus introduced to Brazil (perhaps through Florida?)

Several anole species have become established outside of their native ranges as a result of human-mediated transportation, being introduced to Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Hawaii, the continental U.S., and beyond. Alien anoles can have major impacts on the ecological communities that they invade, for instance leading to local extinction of arthropod taxa and displacing native anole species. It is therefore key to detect and report instances of introduction by these potentially aggressive invaders, as well as to document their geographic spread in colonized regions. In a recent paper, we report on the presence of Anolis porcatus, a species native from Cuba, in coastal southeastern Brazil, using DNA sequence data to support species identification and examine the geographic source of introduction.

Anolis porcatus collected in Brazil, and comparison with the native anole A. punctatus. A, male A. porcatus showing green coloration. B, male A. porcatus showing brown coloration. C, the pink dewlap of male A. porcatus. D, female A. porcatus. E, male A. punctatus, a native anole species. F, the yellow dewlap of male A. punctatus. Picture credits: A–D, Mauro Teixeira Jr.; E, Renato Recoder.

Anolis porcatus collected in Brazil, and comparison with the native anole A. punctatus. A, male A. porcatus showing green coloration. B, male A. porcatus showing brown coloration. C, the pink dewlap of male A. porcatus. D, female A. porcatus. E, male A. punctatus, a native anole species. F, the yellow dewlap of male A. punctatus. Picture credits: A–D, Mauro Teixeira Jr.; E, Renato Recoder.

Perhaps embarrassingly, this study started with Facebook. On August 2015, Ricardo Samelo, an undergraduate Biology student at the Universidade Paulista in Santos, posted a few pictures of an unknown green lizard in the group ‘Herpetologia Brasileira.’ A heated debate about the animal’s identity took place, with people eventually agreeing on Anolis carolinensis. On my way to Brazil to join the Brazilian Congress of Herpetology, I contacted Ricardo (but only after properly hitting the ‘like’ button) and proposed to examine whether the exotic anole was established more broadly in the Baixada Santista region.

To our surprise, local residents knew the lizards well, with some people quite fond of the ‘lagartixas’ due to their pink dewlap displays. People could often tell when the anoles were first noticed in the vicinities – ‘six months’, ‘nine months’, ‘one year ago’ –, suggesting a rather recent presence. Guided by these informal reports, we sampled sites in the municipalities of Santos, São Vicente and Guarujá, where we found dozens of lizards occupying building walls, light posts, fences, debris, trees, shrubs, and lawn in residential yards, abandoned lots, and alongside streets and sewage canals. It was clear that the alien anoles are doing great in human-modified areas; the high density of individuals across multiple sites, as well as the presence of juveniles with various body sizes, seem to suggest a well-established reproductive population.

Sites in the Baixada Santista in southeastern coastal Brazil where introduced A. porcatus were detected. 1, Guarujá. 2, Santos. 3, São Vicente. Green indicates Atlantic Forest cover; gray indicates urban areas; black indicates water bodies.

Sites in the Baixada Santista in southeastern coastal Brazil where introduced A. porcatus were detected. 1, Guarujá. 2, Santos. 3, São Vicente. Green indicates Atlantic Forest cover; gray indicates urban areas; black indicates water bodies.

By reading and bugging experienced anole researchers about the Anolis carolinensis species group, I learned about paraphyly among species, hybridization, and unclear species diagnosis based on external morphology. As a result, my PhD supervisor, Dr. Ana Carnaval, and I decided to recruit Leyla Hernandez, by the time an undergraduate student in the Carnaval Lab at the City University of New York, to help generate DNA sequences to clarify the species identity, and perhaps track the geographic source of introduction in Brazil. To our surprise, a phylogenetic analysis found Brazilian samples to nest within Anolis porcatus, a Cuban species that has also been introduced to Florida and the Dominican Republic. Brazilian A. porcatus clustered with samples from La Habana, Matanzas, and Pinar del Río, which may suggest a western Cuban source of colonization. Nevertheless, Brazilian specimens are also closely related to a sample from Coral Gables in Florida, which may suggest that the Brazilian population originated from lizards that are exotic elsewhere.

Phylogenetic relationships of A. porcatus introduced into Brazil (indicated in red), inferred using MrBayes based on a mitochondrial DNA locus. Purple indicates samples of A. porcatus invasive elsewhere (Florida and the Dominican Republic). Blue indicates native Atlantic Forest anole species. Asterisks indicate posterior probability >0.95. Picture depicts a male A. porcatus collected in São Vicente, Brazil.

Phylogenetic relationships of A. porcatus introduced into Brazil (indicated in red), inferred using MrBayes based on a mitochondrial DNA locus. Purple indicates samples of A. porcatus invasive elsewhere (Florida and the Dominican Republic). Blue indicates native Atlantic Forest anole species. Asterisks indicate posterior probability >0.95. Picture depicts a male A. porcatus collected in São Vicente, Brazil.

The presence of A. porcatus in the Baixada Santista may be related to the country’s largest seaport complex, the Porto de Santos, in this region. Numerous storage lots for intermodal shipping containers were situated near sites where the lizards were detected, and in one instance we found the animals sheltered inside an open container. An exotic green anole (identified as A. carolinensis) was previously found in Salvador in Brazil’s northeast; like Santos, Salvador hosts a major seaport complex, which may indicate that the exotic anoles reached Brazil after being unintentionally transported by ships bringing goods from overseas perhaps twice independently.

It is currently unclear whether A. porcatus will be able to expand into the surrounding coastal Atlantic Rainforest, or into more open natural settings such as shrublands in the Cerrado domain. It is also unknown whether this species will have negative impacts on the local ecological communities. In Brazil, introduced A. porcatus may potentially compete with other diurnal arboreal lizards, such as Enyalius, Polychrus, Urostrophus, and the native Anolis. Five native anoles inhabit the Atlantic Forest (for sure): A. fuscoauratus, A. nasofrontalis, A. ortonii, A. pseudotigrinus, and A. punctatus. While none of them is currently known to occur in sympatry with A. porcatus, the worryingly similar A. punctatus has been reported for a site in Bertioga located only 50 kilometers from the site in Guarujá where we found the exotic anoles.

To properly evaluate the potentially invasive status of A. porcatus in Brazil, we hope to continue assessing the extent of its distribution and potential for future spread, as well as to gather data about whether and how A. porcatus will interact with the local species – especially native Brazilian anoles. This seemingly recent, currently expanding colonization also represents an exciting opportunity for comparisons with other instances of introduction of A. porcatus, as well as the closely-related A. carolinensis, based on ecological and phenotypic data.

Studying such mysterious alien anoles in Brazil was made much more tractable through advice from Jonathan Losos and Richard Glor. Thank you!

To learn more: Prates I., Hernandez L., Samelo R.R., Carnaval, A.C. (2016). Molecular identification and geographic origin of an exotic anole lizard introduced to Brazil, with remarks on its natural history. South American Journal of Herpetology, 11(3): 220-227.

Hormones, Transcriptomes, Quantitative Genetics, and Anoles


Brown Anole

Male (left) and female (right) brown anoles (sizes are not to scale)

Among their many contributions to evolutionary biology, anoles have historically been at the forefront of research on sexual dimorphism. Much of the recent work in this area focuses on a very general question – how do males and females express different phenotypes despite sharing essentially the same underlying genome?

Not surprisingly, the answer often depends on the type of scientist you ask. An endocrinologist might say that the development of sexual dimorphism requires hormones such as testosterone and estradiol. A quantitative geneticist might reply that it involves the reduction of genetic correlations between the sexes. A molecular geneticist might view the problem as one of regulating the expression of shared genes differently in each sex. Can anoles help us put these different perspectives together into a unified framework for sexual dimorphism?

To address this question, our lab at the University of Virginia teamed up with Christian Cox (Georgia Southern), Joel McGlothlin (Virginia Tech), and Daren Card, Audra Andrew, and Todd Castoe (University of Texas, Arlington). The full details are available in The American Naturalist, but here’s a quick rundown of the highlights:

We conducted a breeding study on a captive colony of Anolis sagrei, a species in which adult males average nearly three times the mass of females. We found that the extent to which males and females share heritable variation for body size starts out high early in life, but declines rapidly as sexual dimorphism emerges during development.

Development of sexual dimorphism in Anolis sagreiThis breakdown of genetic constraint is mirrored by a sharp increase in the sex-biased expression of hundreds of autosomal genes in the liver, particularly those genes that regulate growth, metabolism, and cell proliferation. In other words, although male and female anoles share most of the same genes, each sex tweaks the expression of these genes in different ways as development progresses.

How do they do it? We also show that some of the patterns of male-specific gene expression that emerge later in life can be induced by treating juvenile females with testosterone. Putting these pieces together, we propose that hormones help male and female anoles regulate their shared genes in different ways, which allows them to attain dramatically different body sizes and also helps break down genetic correlations that would otherwise constrain their independent evolution. We hope that our study encourages other Anolis biologists to continue building connections between evolutionary genetics, developmental biology, and endocrinology!

A Call, No A Plea, For Anole Eggs and Hatchlings

One of the long-faced members of the carolinensis clade, Anolis brunneus.

One of the long-faced members of the carolinensis clade, Anolis brunneus.

Several years ago, I wrote a series of papers and blog posts about the diversity of anole head shape and its developmental origins. My colleagues and I touched on disparate topics such as whether the head differences among species are similar to post cranial ecomorphology, whether the patterns of cranial modularity are conserved across anoles, and the developmental bases of sexual dimorphism in skull shape.

Since starting my own lab at Loyola University in Chicago last year, I am revisiting these projects on skull evolution. Like in much of science, I have found that my early forays into this area created more questions than answers. Understanding the diversity of skull shape among anoles and other iguanid lizards will be one of the first focal areas of my new lab. We are currently mining museum collections to understand how the variation in anole skulls compares to iguanid lizards more broadly. The ultimate goal, however, is to return to questions about the developmental origins of this variation. Just how many different ways has development been modified to generate all the variation we observe in adult anatomy? We do not yet know.

This is where my attention turns to you. To thoroughly flesh out the developmental origins of anatomical diversity, I must have robust sampling of species across the iguanid phylogeny. I am asking the community to please think of me and my students if you have extra breeding animals, eggs, or hatchlings of any species of anole or another iguanid lizard. I am happy to help offset the cost of the animals or collaborate in a mutually beneficial manner.

One of the most exciting species that have recently had the fortune to work with is Anolis hendersoni. For its body size, this species has one of the longest faces of all anoles. In this case I was contacted by the owner of Backwater Reptiles who had several A. hendersoni adults that we are hoping to get eggs from over the next year at Loyola. The folks at Backwater have been great to discuss “exotic” anoles with as they occasionally receive species like A. woodi, A. cybotes, and Chamaeleolis, all of which could be great additions to my project. This is just one example of how I am trying to broaden the sampling for this project. I ask you, the broader anole community, to help me increase my sampling further. I sincerely thank anyone that has leads for me in advance.

Habitat Disturbance Negatively Affects the Body Condition Index of Anolis antonii

Anolis antonii

Anolis antonii from the agricultural area

Habitat disturbance is considered one of the most important threats to biodiversity. Particularly, anthropogenic disturbance for agricultural practices alters the original structure of Anolis habitats and consequently negatively affects their health and survival. Because the body condition index (BCI) is an effective indicator to assess the health of animals, we hypothesized that the BCI of the Colombian endemic lizard Anolis antonii from an undisturbed habitat (natural area) would be higher than that from the disturbed habitat (agricultural area).

We studied two populations of Anolis antonii from the municipality of Ibague, Tolima, Colombia: (1) a population from an agricultural area cultivated with coffee (Coffea arabica) and plantains (Musa paradisiaca), and (2) a population from a secondary forest, an anthropogenic-free area. We measured the snout-vent length (SVL) and body mass (BM) of adult anoles (males and females)and calculated BCI from the residuals of a linear regression between BM and SVL.

Fig 2. A) Forest habitat and B) Agricultural habitat of Anolis antonii (Ibagué – Colombia)

We found that the BCI of the lizard population from the agricultural area was significantly lower than that of the secondary forest population. Consequently, A. antonii from the secondary forest, with a higher BCI, might have a greater ability to compete for available resources and survive than those from the cultivated area. Thus, this work shows that anthropogenic disturbance negatively decreases the body conditions of A. antonii lizards, which might represent a forthcoming threat for its conservation, especially due to the current habitat deterioration of this species by agriculture activities.

Read the paper:

Gallego-Carmona, C.A., Castro-Arango, J.A. and Bernal-Bautista, M.H., 2016. Effect of Habitat Disturbance on the Body Condition Index of the Colombian Endemic Lizard Anolis antonii (Squamata: Dactyloidae). South American Journal of Herpetology 11(3):183-187.

Happy Birthday, Festive Anole!

I got up early this morning to put a video camera on one of our A. sagrei eggs that was looking particularly ripe. About two hours later, this little hatchling crawled out. The whole hatching process took about 25 minutes, and I’ve sped up the video by 30x. The video is much more compelling with sound. I personally like “Also Sprach Zarathustra,”  though “Ranz des Vaches” by Rossini had some enthusiastic support in lab. If you have other music suggestions, add them to the comments!

Happy birthday, little one!

Report of Interspecific Fighting in Anolis from the Dominican Republic


Photos and notes from Bianka Sanó, a Dominican biology student interested in herpetology:

On the morning of December 26 2016, at 0940 h, in Haina, San Cristóbal, two males of the genus Anolis, belonging to different ecomorphs, A. distichus (trunk), and A. chlorocyanus (trunk-crown), were observed engaged in combat. The lizards were found on a concrete substrate both biting each other on the dorsum (A. distichus held its bite closer to the forelimbs), and remained motionless for approximately 30 seconds. In spite of the A. chlorocyanus being of a larger size, his opponent seemed to be taking the lead in the confrontation; subsequently the A. chlorocyanus got off the engagement and in its attempt to escape, the A. distichus attacked again by biting the A. chlorocyanus in the same place, but this time the A. chlorocyanus failed to reach its opponent in order to defend itself. After about 20 minutes the A. distichus released his opponent and the two went in opposite directions, and while in the move, it was noticeable that both animals were injured.



Adult Male Density Influences Juvenile Microhabitat Use in Brown Anoles

Photographs of the housing conditions used in the experiment. (a) One of the experimental enclosures (with an artificial tree) surrounded by blinds on all sides (note, the front blind was pulled back to reveal the tree and cage). (b) Close-up of the available horizontal perches. (c) Juvenile Anolis sagrei with its identification number on the lateral body surface for visual identification.

Fig 1. Photographs of the housing conditions used in the experiment. (a) One of the experimental enclosures (with an artificial tree) surrounded by blinds on all sides (note, the front blind was pulled back to reveal the tree and cage). (b) Close-up of the available horizontal perches. (c) Juvenile Anolis sagrei with its identification number on the lateral body surface for visual identification.

For many animals, optimal habitats vary across age classes, and individuals shift habitat use as they age. While many studies have documented such age-specific habitat use, most are observational and do not identify the causal factors. In addition, we know that competition between species has been an important driver of habitat use in Anolis lizards. However, less is known about the role of competition on habitat use within species of anoles, especially between age classes.

Dan Warner and I previously found that adults use higher and thicker perches than juveniles at our field site in northeastern Florida (Delaney and Warner 2016). We hypothesized that this variation was a result of adults forcing juveniles to suboptimal habitat. Thus, we altered the density of adult males in mesh enclosures (Fig. 1) in the lab and monitored changes in juvenile microhabitat choice.

Continue reading Adult Male Density Influences Juvenile Microhabitat Use in Brown Anoles

Great New Video on Anole Dewlaps: How Can Species with Identical Dewlaps Coexist?

Day’s Edge Productions has produced a great new video about how two species with seemingly identical dewlaps manage to coexist. Manuel Leal explains what’s really going on.

This video originally appeared in bioGraphic, an online magazine from the California Academy of Sciences that features beautiful and surprising stories about nature and sustainability. 

What is bioGraphic, you ask? Here’s what it’s webpage says:

A multimedia magazine powered by the California Academy of Sciences, bioGraphic was created to showcase both the wonder of nature and the most promising approaches to sustaining life on Earth. We hope our stories will spark conversations, shift perspectives, and inspire new ideas, helping not only to shed new light on our planet’s most pressing environmental challenges, but also—ultimately—to solve them.

Through an ever-evolving array of storytelling tools and techniques, we will introduce you to some of the world’s most intriguing creatures and inspiring people. We’ll also transport you to faraway places, enabling you to experience what it’s like to be there and what’s at stake for those involved. Along the way, we’ll take a critical look at the environmental issues that pose the greatest threats to our future—and the most promising ideas for addressing them.

So please come along—and come back often—as we travel the globe in search of stories that inspire both awe and hope for a more sustainable future.

10 (Vinales)

Please Help Me Identify Some Anoles and Other Cuban Lizards

Hello to everybody, I’m an italian naturalist that visited Cuba last December 2016.

I’m mainly a birder, but I like to give a name to all the creatures I meet. So, I’m going to post 20 pictures of lizards photographed in Cuba: for some I have hypotheses about the identification, but I need confirmation. For some others, I’m completely lost!
Can anybody help me??

Continue reading Please Help Me Identify Some Anoles and Other Cuban Lizards

SICB 2017: Sexual Selection Changes across Life Stage and by Year in Brown Anoles

Photo by Ariel Kahrl

Photo by Ariel Kahrl

Sexual dimorphism, or differences in size or appearance between the sexes, was used by Darwin to explain sexual selection in On the Origin of Species. Interestingly, sexually dimorphic traits, like antlers in deer or showy feathers in peacocks, often do not present themselves until the animals are reproductively mature. Juveniles are often sexually monomorphic, or relatively similar in appearance. Few studies have investigated how sexual antagonism, when different sexes have different optimal strategies, of these traits may develop in the wild over the course of the animal’s maturation. So Aaron Reedy from the Bob Cox Lab at the University of Virginia decided to tackle this question with brown anoles (Anolis sagrei) in Florida.

After tracking thousands of lizards for several generations, Aaron found that selection changed throughout an animal’s life. Adult lizards had selection pressure for large males and small females in one year, but reversed the next, which was surprising, but in both cases was still sexual antagonism. For juveniles, on the other hand, larger body sizes were better regardless of sex. This is an example of sexually concordant selection, where both sexes have similar optimal strategies. He also found that there was selection pressure on the dewlap (an important ornament of anoles in courtship displays) to be smaller in one year, but then reversing the next so that males with larger dewlaps had better chances of survival. This year-to-year variation in selection is interesting and hopefully we’ll learn more from this system in the future.

Anoles Are Habitat Specialists at the Individual Level Too

Anoles are probably best known for the ecomorph story: the presence of specialized species adapted to the same sets of structural microhabitats on different islands. Anoles in the Greater Antilles have contributed hugely to our understanding of both the evolutionary history and the contemporary ecology of communities of specialists.

While they are better known for specialization of species in communities, anoles have also contributed to our understanding of within-species ecological diversity. Around the same time that Ernest Williams was developing the ecomorph concept, Roughgarden (1972) used data from Lesser Antillean anoles to introduce a new framework for investigating the extent to which a population’s niche width (i.e. the diversity of habitats it uses or prey it eats) is determined by variation among individuals versus variation within individuals. For example, individuals in a population of Anolis roquet differ in the size of prey they consume, mainly because larger individuals can catch and ingest larger prey items. While Roughgarden’s early work set the stage for an explosion of studies of individual specialization over the past decade or two (reviewed in Araújo et al. 2011), surprisingly little work has been done to revisit individual specialization within species of anoles. In particular, we don’t know enough about how much individuals specialize in important aspects of microhabitat that differentiate ecomorphs, especially perch height and perch diameter.

"Gar" lived alone on my desk, so I don’t know if he was an individual specialist or not

“Gar” lived alone on my desk, so I don’t know if he was an individual specialist or not

Anole Annals contributors Ambika Kamath and Jonathan Losos have helped to fill this gap with a study just published online in Evolution. Ambika and her team spent a summer observing microhabitat use of a population of brown anoles (Anolis sagrei) in a forested park in Gainesville FL. They marked lizards with colored beads, and repeatedly recorded individual lizards’ perch height and diameter, compiling a total of over 1000 observations of 80 anoles. They grouped perch heights and perch diameters into classes, then compared the distribution used by each individual to the distribution used by the whole population (or to the distribution available to that individual) using a proportional similarity index. The mean value of this index gives a measure of the overall degree of individual specialization in a population, as lower overlap values tell us that individuals are specializing on a subset of the available perches.
Continue reading Anoles Are Habitat Specialists at the Individual Level Too

Aquatic Anole Forages Underwater

I’ve recently learned that famous nature micro-photographer Piotr Naskrecki observed an aquatic anole catching prey underwater. Here’s what he had to say on his blog, The Smaller Majority:

The other aquatic iguana

Aquatic iguana (Norops aquaticus) on rocks in a rainforest stream in Costa Rica [Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 24-105mm]

In a couple of days I am heading off to the Galapagos Islands, where I hope to be able to see the incredible marine iguanas, the world’s only truly marine lizards. Other lizards enter water occasionally, but aquatic lifestyle is quite rare among these reptiles, and few species live and feed under water. But in rainforest streams of Central America there is one little known species of iguana that does just that.I first saw the aquatic iguana (Norops aquaticus) in the southern part of Costa Rica in 1994. These lizards swam and dove in a fast-flowing stream, catching water insects. But when I told a herpetologist friend about it, she refused to believe me.

It took me 13 years to find the aquatic iguana again, and this time I had a camera with me. It was in a different part of Costa Rica (Est. Pitilla in Guanacaste), but the animal and its habitat were the same. I watched it for a couple of hours, following the lizard among slippery boulders, hoping to document its hunting behavior. Eventually I got lucky, but alas, the actual catching of the prey happened underwater, when the iguana cornered a nymph of an aquatic blattodean (a yet undescribed species.) Next time I will definitely try to get a photo of the underwater action.

Update (2 Sept 12): Turns out that the aquatic Norops iguanas that I saw in southern Costa Rica and those from the northern part of the country, shown here, are different species. The animal in the photos is Norops oxylophus, not N. aquaticus. You can read more about the amazing aquatic behavior of N. oxylophus here. (Thanks to Annemare Rijnbeek for pointing me in the right direction regarding the ID of these animals.)
Incidentally, it appears that these lizards are once again being placed in the genus Anolis, where they historically belonged.

Aquatic iguana with a freshly caught aquatic blattodean [Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 100mm macro]

Aquatic iguana swallowing its prey [Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 24-105mm]

SICB 2017: Are Anoles Less Stable When Running Without Using Claws?

Photo courtesy of Catalina Mantilla

Photo courtesy of Catalina Mantilla

This post was written by Brittney Ivanov, research technician in Michele Johnson’s lab at Trinity University.

Catalina Mantilla, a Ph.D. candidate at Florida International University working with Tonia Hsieh of Temple University, is interested in how anoles use their toepads and claws when they run. For most animals, movement on vertical perches such as tree trunks or buildings usually requires specialized morphologies to adhere to these substrates. While many species have evolved adaptations for moving through complex arboreal habits (e.g., prehensile tails or feet, sticky pads, spines), anoles evolved enlarged toepads and distinct claws, presumably to allow for better adhesion. The morphologies of these specialized structures can greatly impact performance; for example, greater toepad area is associated with greater clinging ability. Catalina wanted to better understand how toepads and claws work together to enhance running performance.

Catalina collected 17 males from four Anolis species (A. carolinensis, A. sagrei, A. cristatellus, and A. distichus). Each male was tested in four different running courses to test performance at difference inclines and on different substrates. Two of the courses were positioned at a 45° incline and two at a flat (0°) incline. Plexiglass covered one course at each incline to allow the use of toepads and eliminate the use of claws. Nylon mesh covered the other course at each incline to test the use of both toepads and claws. Performance was evaluated using mean relative sprint speed, relative stride length, and stride frequency.

Catalina found, unexpectedly, that when the lizards ran on the level plexiglass, they ran slower, took shorter strides, and increased their stride frequency compared to when they ran on the inclines. These results suggest that anoles are less stable when they can’t use their claws! in addition, these data support the idea that the combination of toepads and claws is important for their running performance. In the future, Catalina hopes to increase the number of species in this study to determine the effect of ecomorph on claw and toepad interactions during running, and to evaluate limb function changes when running across different inclines.

SICB 2017: How Anoles Climb Trees: Ecomorph Differences in Neuromuscular Function

Kathleen Foster presents her work to a packed room at SICB.

Kathleen Foster presents her work to a packed room at SICB.

Regular readers of AA will be familiar with the differences in microhabitat use that define the Anolis ecomorphs, but do species with such distinct structural habitats move differently on their specialized perches? In other words, does muscle function differ between the ecomorphs? In the very last session at this year’s SICB, Kathleen Foster, currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Ottawa studying the biomechanics of fish locomotion (come back to anoles, Kathleen!), presented a portion of her graduate work in Tim Higham’s lab at the University of California, Riverside, to address this question. She used high speed video to film five species of anoles running on broad and narrow perches at two angled inclines, combined with electromyography to record fore- and hindlimb muscle activity during running.

Photo courtesy of Kathleen Foster.

Photo courtesy of Kathleen Foster.

Kathleen found that all five species had greater motor unit recruitment on steeper inclines than on horizontal perches, and that muscle activity is shorter but begins more abruptly on inclines. Further, recruitment of the gastrocnemius (a “calf” muscle) was greater on broad perches, because the way lizards sit on narrow perches limits the function of this muscle. If you’ve seen how anoles position their feet on both sides of narrow perches, it’s easy to understand how this posture prevents effective propulsion by ankle extension. Kathleen also found several intriguing differences that distinguish trunk-ground species’ muscle function from trunk-crown and crown-giant species. The activity of the caudofemoralis (a limb retractor muscle in the hindlimb) changes more in trunk-ground species as a function of incline, and trunk-ground species use the biceps and gastrocnemius more in the early stance phase of propulsion than trunk-crown species.

Overall, these data help us understand how specialization in neuromuscular function can allow different anole species to successfully move through their varying habitats, and offer insight into how behavioral differences depend on the muscles that underlie them.

SICB 2017: Testosterone Influences Dewlap Expression and Energetics


Above: Albert Chung presented on how testosterone influences sexual signals and energetics at the annual Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology meeting in New Orleans, LA.

Many researchers are curious about how sexual signals evolve and if those signals are influenced by an individual’s energetics. Signal expression (such as anole dewlap size or color) and energetics might have the same physiological underpinnings, and signal expression may be limited by energetic state. Albert Chung, a graduate student working with Dr. Christian Cox at Georgia Southern University, along with graduate student, Aaron Reedy, and Dr. Robert Cox at the University of Virginia tested this hypothesis with brown anoles (Anolis sagrei) in the lab and in a wild population in the Bahamas.

The researchers had three different groups in this experiment. In one group, the males were castrated, so they wouldn’t produce natural testosterone. These males were each given a small implant that released synthetic testosterone designed to have the same effects on the body as natural testosterone. In the next group, males went through a procedure to mimic castration, but were effectively left intact, and implanted with an empty implant. These males still produced natural testosterone. In the final group, males were castrated and each one was given an empty implant, so they did not have testosterone in their bodies.

Wild anoles were recaptured after two months. The researchers measured the size and color of the dewlap, how much fat was stored (which provided the researchers with an estimate of energetic state), and body condition. They took the same measurements in the lab population.

There were clear differences between the males that had testosterone (both natural and synthetic) and males that did not have testosterone. Castrated males had smaller dewlaps compared to intact males and testosterone-treated males in both the field and lab populations. Dewlap size of testosterone-treated males was similar to that of intact males in the wild population, but in the lab population, testosterone-treated males had larger dewlaps than intact males.

Castrated males in the wild population had brighter, more saturated dewlap coloration than testosterone-treated males and intact males. In the lab population, dewlap coloration did not differ among the treatments.

In the wild population, castrated males had higher body fat mass than intact males and testosterone-treated males. Wild testosterone-treated males were similar in body fat to intact males. Castrated males in the lab population also had higher body fat mass than intact males and testosterone-treated males.

The researchers also looked to see if either fat mass or body condition were correlated with dewlap size or color within each treatment group. None of these variables were correlated with one another.

Overall, while dewlap expression was not dependent on an individual’s energetic state, both energetics and dewlap expression were directly influenced by a common hormone: testosterone.

SICB 2017: Impacts of Urbanization on Morphology, Thermal Preference, and Parasitism

Chris Thawley at a crossroads.

Chris Thawley at a crossroads.

Urban environments are widespread and expanding across much of the earth, and this urbanization likely affects the flora and fauna in its path. Anoles are no exception and are frequently observed perching on anthropogenic structures. Thus, Chris Thawley, a post-doc in Jason Kolbe’s lab at the University of Rhode Island, and colleagues wondered how the abiotic and biotic changes in urban areas influence anole traits.

Thawley compared populations in urban and natural habitats of two species that we’re quite familiar with on Anole Annals – the Brown Anole (Anolis sagrei) and the Puerto Rican Crested Anole (Anolis cristatellus). Thawley found that A. sagrei prefers warmer temperatures than A. cristatellus, but that urban anoles do not differ in thermal preference than natural anoles for either species. Alternatively, urban male A. cristatellus and both sexes of urban A. sagrei were larger than their natural counterparts. As for parasites, A. sagrei had a higher parasite prevalence than A. cristatellus, but urban anoles did not differ from natural anoles in either species in parasite prevalence. However, for the A. sagrei that were parasitized, urban A. sagrei had higher parasite loads than natural A. sagrei.

These findings show that urbanization can influence anole morphology and parasite ecology. Thawley has just begun this work, and I look forward to seeing his future research on anole adaptation to urban environments!