Tag Archives: Anolis carolinensis

JMIH 2016: Genetic Evidence of Hybridization between the Native Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis) and the Invasive Cuban Green Anole (A. porcatus)

Photo by James Stroud

Photo by James Stroud

At JMIH 2016, I chatted with Johanna Wegener, a graduate student at the University of Rhode Island in Jason Kolbe’s lab, about her poster detailing her work identifying hybridization between Anolis carolinensis and A. porcatus in southern Florida.

Interspecific hybridization in anoles is thought to be fairly rare, with the best-known example being hybridization between Anolis carolinensis (native to the southeastern U.S.) and A. porcatus (native to Cuba) in southern Florida. I was surprised to learn how little we know about this rumored hybrid zone.

A. porcatus was likely introduced into Florida within the last few decades, but the striking morphological similarities between A. carolinesis and A. porcatus make anecdotal reports of hybridization hard to confirm. Wegener conducted the first genetic analyses of hybridization between A. carolinesis and A. porcatus. She genotyped 18 nuclear microsatellites from green anoles in Florida (Palm Beach and South Miami) and western Cuba and conducted a STRUCTURE analysis and found support for three genetic clusters consisting of Cuban A. porcatus, and two Floridian groups (one from Palm Beach and one from South Miami). With the addition of the mitochondrial ND2 marker, she found that the South Miami population had both A. carolinensis and A. porcatus haplotypes. Interestingly, there appeared to be very few recent hybrids; instead, the hybrid group appeared distinct from either parent group, suggesting that hybridization has been occurring for several generations.

In addition, Wegener looked at the variation in A. porcatus and A. carolinensis markers in each hybrid individual and found examples of some parent markers being retained at high proportions in the hybrids, possibly suggesting the retention of beneficial parent alleles in the hybrids.

Given that this study was only conducted at two sites in Florida, the exciting next step of this study is to better quantify the genetic makeup of hybrids across southern Florida and map out the hybrid zone.

Evolution 2016: Polar Vortex Revisited

Shane Campbell-Staton giving his talk at Evolution 2016

Shane Campbell-Staton giving his talk at Evolution 2016

We’ve heard about the effects of polar vortexes here on Anole Annals before. The infamous 2013/2014 event brought record-breaking snow and low temperatures to the Southern U.S., leaving people and animals both a little chilled. This created the perfect opportunity for Shane Campbell-Staton to investigate the effects of such extreme events on thermal tolerance of the native Carolina Anole, Anolis carolinensis. Shane also spoke about this at SICB earlier this year, and AA contributor Martha Muñoz covered the talk pretty thoroughly here on Anole Annals. Nevertheless, I’ll summarize some key points here in case you missed it.

carolinensis frozen

An unlucky lizard during the polar vortex snow storms in the South.

Shane got lucky in the sense that he had measured thermal tolerance in August 2013 for populations affected by the polar vortex, 5 months before the event. Typically, the cold arctic air is tightly constrained around the North pole, but periodically the boundaries weaken and the cool air expands southward. These events are not regular, so Shane had no idea one was coming that winter or that it would extend so far south. It was serendipitous that his study populations, 3 in Texas and 1 in Oklahoma, were impacted by the extreme weather event. This species, particularly in the Southern portion of its range, is not used to low temperatures and reports came in of anoles dying off during the storm.

Air temperatures for January 5-7, 2014, compared to the 1981-2010 average. Map by NOAA Climate.gov

So Shane returned in August of 2014 and sampled again, curious as to how this cold impacted thermal tolerance. He found that tolerance to low temperatures, measured as critical thermal minimum (CTmin), was lower in some populations after the event! Even more, the difference was greatest in the Southernmost population (Brownsville, Texas). Shane returned again in the fall of 2014 to see if this effect persisted or if it was simply a plastic response to the event. He found that the populations sampled in 2014, and presumably their offspring, still had lower critical thermal minimums. This result suggests that the extreme cold weather had caused an evolutionary shift in cold tolerance via natural selection: only the animals that could tolerate the cold temperatures survived and passed on their cold-tolerance genes. Shane went on to conduct a common garden study to verify that the trait was not simply a plastic response. He found that the lower CTmin persisted in lab-reared animals: strong evidence that these shifts had a genetic basis.

Lastly, Shane looked at the functional genomics of cold tolerance. Using liver tissues to obtain transcriptomes (representing expressed genes), he found several gene modules associated with thermal tolerance including some associated with respiratory electron transport chain, lipid metabolism, carbohydrate metabolism, and angiogenesis/blood coagulation. He also found that the gene expression patterns in the Southern populations affected by the storm resembled the Northern populations that more regularly experience cool temperatures, indicating a common genetically based adaptive response across populations.

Evolution 2016: Genomic Insights into Anolis carolinensis Phylogeography

2016-06-19 15.29.31

Anoles, in particular Anolis carolinensis, have long been considered an ideal group for studies investigating thermal physiology, reproductive endocrinology, and even regeneration. With the recent publication of the A. carolinensis genome  (see AA posts on this here and here), the possibilities for new genomic studies in this new model species have significantly increased.

Joseph Manthey and co-authors used this new resource to clarify the phylogeographic relationships of A. carolinensis. Previous research on the phylogeography of A. carolinensis using both mitochondrial DNA and nuclear DNA showed that there were 5 clades. However, the relationships between these groups differed between the two approaches. Joseph looked at the genomes of 42 individuals from 26 localities across the native range to determine the true evolutionary relationship between regional groups and to shed light on the demographic histories of the groups. Manthey sequenced 500 loci using an anchored hybrid enrichment approach.

2016-06-19 15.36.32

STRUCTURE analysis showed that the clusters had little admixture

Manthey et al. found that the genomic data predicted 5 genetic groups, in agreement with both the nuclear and mitochondrial analyses previously done. Their results also indicated that the 5 genetic clusters were distinct with little admixture. However, the relationships between groups did not agree with either the mitochondrial or nuclear trees, yet all nodes had extremely high support (93-100%)

Finally, Manthey commented on the likely timing of this diversification and associated demographic trends. Their results indicate that the initial split occurred during the late Miocene or early Pliocene and that the remaining diversification occurred during the Pleistocene. They also found that the most Southern population had a significant number of fixed genes while other populations did not. This suggests that this group was likely the oldest and most stable and supports an “out of Florida” hypothesis of diversification.

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Decoupled Muscle Activity and Kinematics in Green Anoles (Anolis carolinensis): New Research by Kathleen Foster and Tim Higham

Anolis carolinensis.  Photo taken by Kathleen Foster.

Anolis carolinensis. Photo taken by Kathleen Foster.

Anoles are the indisputable poster children of ecomorphology.  Morphological, behavioral, and performance data support classification of Anolis species into discrete ecomorphs on the Greater Antilles islands.  In a large part, the basis of this classification is due to variables (e.g. limb length) that relate to differing locomotor abilities (i.e. speed and/or stability) on the various substrates that comprise the different areas of the arboreal habitat.  However, until recently, we knew nothing about how the muscles that power locomotion in these species relate to their ability to cope with the challenges of moving in these different microhabitats.

In a recent paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, we used a combination of electromyography and 3D high-speed video to examine the impact of perch diameter and incline on limb kinematics and muscle activity in Anolis carolinensis. Our previous study in the Journal of Experimental Biology found a number of kinematic changes (e.g. increased limb flexion and depression) associated with increased stability on narrow surfaces, and we hypothesized increased recruitment in the muscles associated with those movements. Interestingly, this was not the case. Despite considerable kinematic modulation with change in perch diameter (63% of the 32 kinematic variables were significantly affected by perch diameter), there was very little change in muscle activity (2% of the 100 muscle activity variables). This decoupling of kinematics and muscle function raises a number of very interesting questions relating to the sensitivity of these muscles to changes in operating length and the degree to which this species is specialized for a particular microhabitat. It also highlights the complexity of the physiological basis of animal locomotion and emphasizes the need for caution when attempting to infer motor control from kinematics and vice versa.

An additional result that may significantly impact identification of habitat preference in Anolis lizards relates to the importance of variability, as opposed to magnitude, of muscle activity in describing the differences in how this species handled the different substrate conditions. Specifically, the muscles examined were less variable on the broad perch compared to the narrow perch and on the vertically, as opposed to horizontally, inclined perch. Locomotor stereotypy is generally believed to reflect locomotor specialization, although reduced variation of in muscle activity may also be achieved as a byproduct of near-maximal muscle recruitment. However, we have little support for this second option, as the muscles were neither approaching maximal stimulation nor vastly different in overall magnitude or recruitment. Therefore the greater stereotypy of muscle activity seen in the green anole as it moved on the broad, vertical condition may reflect a physiological preference for tree trunks, rather than the narrower and shallower substrates that comprise (on average) the trunk-crown region to which it is traditionally assigned.

It is clear that there remains a wealth of knowledge waiting to be unearthed in the Anolis system and this paper barely scratches the surface. It emphasizes how little we understand about the complex nature of animal locomotion and the relationship between the muscles that power locomotion and the movements we observe in the field. And the possibility that variability of muscle activity might be a useful tool to identify functional preference for microhabitat is tantalizing and deserves further attention, especially if it can be applied usefully to mainland Anolis species. The remainder of my dissertation will focus on fleshing out these and other aspects of muscle function through the comparison of ecomorphs of the Greater Antilles.

Kathleen L. Foster & Timothy E. Higham.  (2012).  How forelimb and hindlimb function changes with incline and perch diameter in the green anole, Anolis carolinensis.  Journal of Experimental Biology  215: 2288-2300. (DOI: 10.1242/jeb.069856)

Kathleen L. Foster & Timothy E. Higham.  (2014).  Context-dependent changes in motor control and kinematics during locomotion: modulation and decoupling.  Proceedings of the Royal Society B  281: 20133331. (DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.3331)

Fill In The Blank: Obscure Anole Life History Traits

In collaboration with the Conservation Biology course taught by Dr. Karen Beard here at Utah State University, where I am a Ph.D. student, I have been involved in gathering life history data on ~400 species of reptiles that have been introduced outside of their native ranges for an analysis of how life history traits (e.g., diet, fecundity, longevity) interact with other factors to influence the likelihood of successful establishment. Appendix A of Fred Kraus’ 2009 book Alien Reptiles and Amphibians is the source of the species list we are using, and included in this analysis are 26 species of Anolis. This is where you come in.

First, we coded all anoles as (i) sexually-dichromatic, (ii) diurnal, (iii) non-venomous, (iv) oviparous, (v) omnivores that lack (vi) temperature-dependent sex determination and (vii) parthenogenesis. Is anyone aware of any exceptions to these seven generalizations?

Second, we searched for data on clutch size, clutch frequency, incubation time, and longevity. The Anole Classics section of this site and the Biodiversity Heritage Library were particularly useful. After conducting what I feel to be a pretty thorough literature scavenger hunt, I am forced to conclude that some of these data simply do not exist at the species level for all of the species we’re interested in, or are not explicitly stated in a way that is obvious to a non-anole-expert. Of course, there is a lot of literature, including many books that I don’t have access to, and there are also lots of credible observations that don’t get published. I’m hoping that some of the readership here can help fill in at least some of the blanks in the table below. As one member of the team, I did not collect all of the data that are filled in myself, nor have I personally vetted every value, so if you spot an error please do point it out.

Two important points:

  1. Many environmental factors obviously influence the life history parameters of our beloved and wonderfully plastic reptiles, so we appreciate that many of these values would be better represented by ranges and are dependent on latitude, altitude, climate, and many other factors. Where a range is published, we are using its median value.
  2. I should also emphasize that, because of the large size of this study and the diversity of taxa included (ranging in size from giants like Burmese Pythons, Nile Crocodiles, and Aldabra Tortoises to, well, anoles and blindsnakes), it is more important for the data to reflect the relative values of these life history parameters across all anoles (and all reptiles) than it is to specifically and precisely represent all known variation within a given species of anole.

Without further ado (for your enjoyment, and because I know from my own blog that nobody reads posts lacking pictures, I’ve embedded an image of each species):

Species Median clutch size Median clutches per year Incubation time (days) Maximum longevity (months)
A aeneus
A. aeneus
2
A baleatus
A. baleatus
A bimaculatus
A.bimaculatus            
2 43 84
A carolinensis
A. carolinensis
1.15 6  41.5 65
A chlorocyanus
A.chlorocyanus
1 18
A conspersus
A. conspersus
1
A cristatellus
A. cristatellus
2.5 18 83
A cybotes
A. cybotes
1 18 45
A distichus
A. distichus
1 16 45.5
A equestris
A. equestris
1 1 48 149
A extremus
A. extremus
A ferreus
A. ferreus
1 18
A garmani
A. garmani
1.5 18 67
A grahami
A. grahami
1
A leachii
A. leachii
A lineatus
A. lineatus
A lucius
A. lucius
1 3.5 60
A marmoratus
A. marmoratus
2  50
A maynardi
A. maynardi
A porcatus
A. porcatus
1 18 63.5
A pulchellus
A. pulchellus
1
A richardii
A. richardii
1
A sagrei
A. sagrei
2 20  32 22
A stratulus
A. stratulus
A trinitatis
A. trinitatis
2  50
A wattsi
A. wattsi
1

Thanks in advance. I think this is a great blog and I hope to post something more interesting on here soon.

Flexible Perches… Who Cares?

I had spent a summer in Florida watching green and brown anoles jump around on trunks and branches, and I was amazed by how well they appeared to navigate their habitat, despite the variable flexibility and complexity of the habitat. Many anole species jump. They jump to move around their habitat, to forage, to fight, to chase (or be chased by) potential mates, and to avoid predators. If you have observed anoles jumping in the wild, you might notice that some species jump a lot, and they jump to and from a lot of different types of structures (the ground, trunks, branches, leaves). While the diameter of different types of structures has been shown to affect running speed and surefootedness, it has also been shown to have little impact on jumping, at least in the lab. But what about the flexibility (compliance) of the structures they are jumping to and from? Will a narrow branch in the wild affect jumping performance, not because of its diameter, but because narrow branches tend to be flexible? What about other flexible structures in nature, such as leaves, which tend to be wide and highly flexible? And, are anoles choosy about where, and from what, they jump?

It turns out, when it comes to jumping, perch flexibility is quite important.

With the help of my advisor, an engineer, and a generous collaborator who gave me guidance and let me use his specially-designed anole jumping tank, we conducted a lab study to to determine if and how perch flexibility affects jump performance in green anoles. We found that the  more flexible a perch was, the more it negatively affected jump distance and jump speed. We also observed that the recoiling perches whacked the anoles in the tail as they were jumping, which caused many anoles to do an impressive faceplant (this part of the story has received a bit of notoriety, both in the Annals (twice) and elsewhere). So, increased perch flexibility decreases jumping performance in the lab. But what does this mean for those anoles I’ve seen jumping from leaves and twigs in their natural habitat?

Male green anole perched on a flexible palm leaflet

Male green anole perched on a flexible palm leaflet

To answer this question, I headed back down to Florida and spent a little over a month filming green anole jumping behavior. The green anoles I observed in the wild appeared to be extremely choosy about which structures they jump from. While I found them basking and foraging on a range of perches, from stiff trunks to highly flexible leaves, the lizards would generally jump from the sturdiest perches in the habitat. If they were on a thin and flexible palm leaflet, they would move closer to the base of the leaflet to a stiffer spot before jumping. And when they did jump from highly flexible perches, they jumped to another perch that was just a short distance away. The longest jumps we observed were from the most sturdy (and low-lying) perches.

The green anoles I observed appeared to be so good at choosing perches to jump from, that over the course of my study I only noted two failed jumps from flexible perches. In one instance, a male was perching near the end of a leaflet, then moved to a sturdier part of the leaflet to jump onto a perch above him. Although this part of the leaflet was sturdy, it was not sturdy enough. The force of the jump pushed the jump perch down away from him, and he was unable to jump high enough to reach his intended perch. Luckily, he was able to catch onto another leaflet before he hit the ground. In the other instance, another male attempted a jump to a far perch and landed on the ground instead, then quickly climbed back up the palm. However, because I documented undisturbed behavior, many of the jumps I witnessed were sub-maximal. The lizards were jumping as far as they needed to at the time to get to another perch, but were not attempting to flee and therefore may not have been jumping as far as they might otherwise been able to. I wonder how my observations of how choosy they are with jump perches would change if they were in situations where they needed to escape quickly. Continue reading Flexible Perches… Who Cares?

heatstack

Shelby Prindaville’s Anole Artwork

Watercolor drawing by Shelby Prindaville

Shelby Prindaville, Polychrotidae (Heatstack) detail, watercolor and pencil on paper, 30×22″, 2011

My watercolor drawings and figurative sculptures feature a variety of Anolis lizards.  The visually fascinating characteristics of anoles combined with their small size yet reptilian “otherness” (occupying a middle ground between too-easily-anthropomorphized mammals and too-alien fish or invertebrates) make anoles an ideal animal representative for my broader ecological interests.

Watercolor drawing by Shelby Prindaville

Shelby Prindaville, Anolis proboscis (Pair), watercolor, 3P art medium, and pencil on translucent paper, 16×24″, 2012

The drawings and sculptures I create with anoles use their innate character and abilities to explore a purgatorial space. The first drawing in the watercolor series puts anoles in place of rats in the rat king myth made famous in The Nutcracker; the use of anoles allows a way out of the diseased mass through voluntary autotomy and allegorically demonstrates that repairing environments requires sacrifice. Other drawings pull from subjects ranging from the Ouroboros to Terry Pratchett’s allegory of summer.

Watercolor drawing by Shelby Prindaville

Shelby Prindaville, Anolis carolinensis and Mimosa Pudica (Falling), watercolor and pencil on velvet paper, 27×19″, 2012

My desire to sculpt small yet still anatomically accurate anoles has actually led to the development of a new polymer medium: 3P QuickCure Clay.  I collaborate with LSU Chemistry Professor John Pojman and his company 3P, and my suggestion to create a clay and its subsequent development has allowed me to use a batch-curing process that achieves the intricately detailed results below.

Sculpture by Shelby Prindaville

Shelby Prindaville, Polychrotidae (Dive and Climb), 3P Clay, 4x8x2.5″, 2012

To see larger images or more of my artwork, please visit shelbyprindaville.com.

Cleaner Birds Removing Parasites From Anoles?

Here's a photo of a Carolina Wren that's caught a brown anole. But this story is something different. Photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/24073599@N05/4545405419/

Brian Langerhans, he of mosquitofish fame (but with some anole credentials, such as here  and here), writes from Raleigh, NC:

A strange interaction was observed this morning and I’m wondering if you know what’s going on. There are a number of A. carolinensis that live around our house, and today something weird happened. It’s a pretty cool morning, but a big male was on a ledge on our porch. Two Carolina wrens flew over to the anole, the anole sat still while one pecked on it’s body and tail, and then extended it’s dewlap and opened it’s mouth for a while (but was otherwise still) as the other wren pecked around and in it’s mouth. Do you know what might have been happening here? You’d think the birds were harrassing the anole (and maybe it’s too cold for the lizard to fight back), but it didn’t seem like it. There’s no way they could have been cleaning it (like removing mites), right?  Any thoughts?

What’s All the Fuss About Dewlaps?

Anolis carolinensis from http://www.mascotissimo.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/anolis_carolinensis.jpg

A few years ago, Richard Tokarz and colleagues conducted a series of studies in which he surgically disabled the dewlaps of some male A. sagrei and discovered that these functionally dewlapless lizards had no trouble holding a territory and seducing females. In a new study, Henningsen and Irschick found that surgically reducing the size of dewlaps in male A. carolinensis by about one-third had no effect on male-male aggressive interactions in the lab. Makes one wonder what’s the big deal about having a dewlap.

Jack Frost Nipping At My Embryos

My first thawed hatchling, Mr. Freeze, moments after emerging with the desire to rule the world (as soon as he got a little extra warmth from my finger)

Two weeks ago our building decided to test its emergency power generators.  They assured us there should be no problems (never the case) and that electronics plugged into emergency wall sockets shouldn’t have a disruption in power while others might experience small outages that evening.

We assumed our incubator was in the emergency socket and had little concern to think that any disruption to power would cause problems.  Needless to say, that was not the case.  There was a surge when the power came on and according to the repair tech it fried 2 boards… however when power was restored instead of returning to its preset temp, room temp, or even remaining off, it decided to turn on and drop the temp to freezing (or below) (we are unsure of the exact temp as the display board was one of the 2 that fried).  Everything inside was covered in frost and ice including the few remaining eggs I decided to spare from embryo extractions and allow to hatch for breeding next year. Continue reading Jack Frost Nipping At My Embryos

Perch Compliance and Dumb Luck

Thanks to Duncan Irschick’s insistence that I start a project immediately upon my arrival in the PhD program at UMass, Amherst (and inspiration from a passage in Lizards in an Evolutionary Tree stating that the effects of perch instability on anole locomotion had not yet been examined – thanks, Jonathan!), I spent part of the summer of 2011 studying the effects of perch compliance (flexibility) on green anole ecology and jumping performance in the wild. This followed my examination of the effects of this perch characteristic in the lab over the last two semesters (manuscript under review).

However, finding an ideal field site for this study proved a bit more challenging than I had anticipated. Yoel Stuart invited me to work with him on a project examining the effects of interspecific competition on diet in Anolis carolinensis and A. sagrei using stable isotope analysis last summer (we continued this project through 2011), and I based my vision of an ideal field site on my experiences watching green anoles hop and run around on slender (and quite flexible) mangrove branches. I envisioned a site with plenty of small to medium diameter branches and larger trunks for the anoles to frolic on, which would provide me with plenty of data on how these lizards use compliant perches in the wild.

After a FULL week of searching (with plenty of field site advice from Yoel), I settled on a site with the type of habitat structure I had originally been seeking, as well as many small cabbage palms (< 3m) along the forest edges. Continue reading Perch Compliance and Dumb Luck

Anolis carolinensis in South Georgia

Anolis carolinensis, 15 September 2011. Residential Valdosta, Georgia

After living much of my life in the anole-saturated forests and neighborhoods of central Florida, somewhere beneath the Spanish Moss, I lived and worked in Anchorage, Alaska for four years. Other than the occasional wood frog, Rana sylvatica, my interactions with reptiles and amphibians were, of course, somewhat diminished… (Plenty of moose, though. Oh yes, plenty of moose. And dogs. Lots and lots of dogs.)

Anolis carolinensis, 02 August 2011. Residential Valdosta, Georgia.

This past summer I returned to the American southeast with my family — specifically to Valdosta, Georgia. Since returning, I’ve been struck by the density of Carolina green anoles and the lack of Cuban brown anoles, Anolis sagrei. In central Florida A. sagrei is ubiquitous these days. It’s hard to find a yard where they don’t dominate the trunk-ground area. In Valdosta, however, I have yet to positively identify a single Anolis sagrei (I’ve been told by locals they are here, but in isolated pockets). My little corner of south Georgia seems to be A. carolinensis territory in most every way, every day.

Indeed, I am seeing a strong and robust number of Carolina greens hanging out low to the ground, not just in the trunks and trunk-crowns. They’re on the bushes, they’re on the screens, they’re on the grass, and they’re even on the sidewalks and driveways. Low-riders, I call them — the Carolina greens riding the ground-level, juveniles and adults.

In a way, moving to Valdosta, Georgia feels a bit like time travel. It feels like central Florida circa the mid-1980s, minus the NASCAR fetish, back when I was a hairy little rugrat chasing green anoles through my Volusia county backyard while jamming Devo on my twelve-pound Sony cassette walkman. I’d nearly forgotten what Carolina greens are like without the presence of Cuban brown anoles and scattered Star Wars action figures in the grass… but what’s been most startling is the number of green anoles I’ve seen low-riding — basking on pavement, hanging out on concrete, scampering around fallen pine needles and leaves. Given their trunk-crown ecomorphology and the dominance of Cuban brown anoles in Florida, I wasn’t prepared to see so many Carolina greens surfing the ground. Is it a seasonal climate (heat) pattern? Not sure. Time will tell and I’ll keep watching.

It’s unlikely I’ll try to get these green anoles to bite my earlobes and wear them as jewelry like I did circa 1982 (the shame!), but I am enjoying this relative sense of time-travel. I also wonder when A. sagrei will make it up here in force — and push these greens back up into the trunk-crown, if ever.

~ janson

Anolis carolinensis, 31 August 2011. Grand Bay WMA; Valdosta, Georgia

The Good Life For Green Anoles: Where No Browns Occur

Brown phase green anole. Photo by Janson Jones at Dust Tracks on the Web (http://dusttracks.com/)

At Dust Tracks on the Web, Janson Jones posts some interesting observations on green anoles (A. carolinensis) in northern Florida and southern Georgia, where the brown anole (A. sagrei) has yet to invade. To cut to the chase, he finds the green anoles to be larger, to be brown more often, and to perch much lower than green anoles do in central Florida in the presence of brown anoles.

The effect of brown anoles on greens in Florida has been surprisingly poorly documented. Just as surprisingly, very little information exists in the scientific literature on the habitat use, behavior, and other aspects of green anole natural history in places where they occur by themselves. We have almost no useful data on what green anole biology was like in Florida pre-sagrei, nor few data from areas where sagrei does not occur today. Detailed and quantitative studies of such populations would be particularly useful, as well as repeated surveys through time in areas that brown anoles may eventually invade to document what happens when they get there (of course, repeated surveys in areas that brown anoles don’t invade would be important to, as controls). Those of you who live in appropriate areas, get to it!

Carolinensis – Sagrei Hanky Panky

Photos by Mark Lucas from his Facebook page

Those rascals! I’ve heard reports of this before, but never seen a photo. I wonder if it’s always a male green anole, or whether both ways occur. In any case, it would be shocking if such liaisons led to the production of hybrid offspring, given that the two species belong to evolutionary lineages that separated many many millions of years ago.

Anole Research Cleans Up on Awards at JMIH

A figure illustrating dewlap color variation in the distichus species group from Anthony Geneva's award winning poster.

Two posters on anole evolution presented at JMIH last weekend were honored with SSAR poster awards.  Anthony Geneva, a PhD student at the University of Rochester took home the prize in the Evolution, Genetics, & Systematics category for his poster on “A Multi-locus Molecular Phylogeny of Distichoid Anoles.”  Mingna Zhuang, an undergraduate researcher at UC Berkeley, won in the Ecology, Natural History, Distribution, & Behavior category for her poster on “Comparative Gliding Performance of Anolis carolinensis and Anolis sagrei.”  Although not on anoles, it also bears noting that Daniel Scantlebury’s study of adaptive radiation in Sphaerodactylus – which has been inspired partly by work on Anolis – won the SSAR’s Henri Seibert Award for best student talk on Evolution/Systematics.  Congrats to Anthony, Mingna, and Dan!

JMIH 2011: More Anole Posters

The Sunday night poster session at JMIH 2011 had a few more anole offerings.  Melissa Moody from Iowa State reported on a laboratory experiment on the developmental and fitness consequences of varying Anolis sagrei egg incubation temperature and humidity.  Anolis sagrei eggs seem relatively robust to the variation experienced during this experiment.  Paul Cupp of Eastern Kentucky University asked whether ground skinks (Scincella lateralis) and green anoles (Anolis carolinensis) could detect chemical deposits from the Eastern Milk Snakes (Lampropeltis triangulum); he found evidence that the skinks could detect these deposits while the anoles could not.  Finally, Mingna Zhuang discussed comparative gliding performance of Anolis carolinensis and Anolis sagrei.  She found that A. carolinensis is a considerably better glider, perhaps due to the fact that it has a flatter gliding posture than A. sagrei.

Strange perch mate

Anoles in Florida really have to deal with some strange neighbors. You just never know who is going to move in next door. Giant day geckos are rapidly expanding their range in the Fla Keys and use a variety of perch sites and heights including manmade structures. This of course brings them in contact with all species of Anolis occurring there.  I enjoyed watching this interaction… The A.carolinensis/porcatus was really troubled with the invader, using the entire repertoire of his display skills. The gecko (Phelsuma grandis) which was at least three times the mass of the anole, only seemed slightly hesitant to continue to the crown of the tree. Once there the anole displayed for several minutes trying to influence the gecko out of his small palm. Perhaps one day they will learn each others language.

A Primer on Filming Anole Behavior – Part 1

A field assistant, Sarah, films anole behavior in semi-natural enclosures

I’m in the midst of my fourth summer of field work, and over the course of this time, I have spent many hours filming male Anolis carolinensis. I’ve done this work under several conditions; one project involved filming known animals in the field, a second required filming staged encounters between males in the lab, and the final (and current) project has me filming animals in semi-natural enclosures. These experiences prompted me to create this post, which I hope will be useful to anole researchers and enthusiasts who are embarking on projects that involve capturing video of lizards doing the things that fascinate us. Today, I’ll begin with a discussion of cameras and in a later post, I will write about other equipment as well as some of the techniques I’ve employed to capture useful images.

The Camera

The most important piece of equipment. Continue reading A Primer on Filming Anole Behavior — Part 1

Anoles, American Style

I will admit here that I used to be a little jealous of other anole catchers. This twinge of want was not necessarily due to any perceived greater intellectual merit of the research, nor to collecting successes in terms of sheer numbers of lizards. My envy stemmed from the fact that the stories were exotic, involving international travel to islands in the Caribbean both great and small, where supposedly the anoles practically fall out of the trees and astonish you with their diversity and abundance.

Green anole in Arkansas

I would think to myself how comparatively boring my field work must sound: driving in a blue van with New York plates, weaving across state lines, searching for A. carolinensis, the lone species that lives on the continent —  the Drosophila melanogaster of an otherwise thrillingly diverse genus. Can there be a more boring species than a lizard with the word “green” in its common name? Even the folks I meet while traveling in the field  hint at mundaneness when I tell them what I am looking for: “Where you really need to look is on my aunt’s patio!” Yes sir, I know they often pop up in the begonias, but will they be there when I need them to be (because they never are)? Plus, I have to be in southern Georgia by tomorrow afternoon so I need anoles from this latitude today! Continue reading Anoles, American Style

They Don’t Eat Butterflies, Do They?

Photo by Larry Ditto. http://kacproductions.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Reptiles-and-others/G0000aYUEKKoWeyY/I00001RHu91IeOnI

Recently, a colleague and I were discussing how university greenhouses could be more profitably used if they were filled with anoles. This led us to discussion of one particular local greenhouse, full of butterflies nattering about for no apparent purpose. I suggested that this would be a particularly good spot to introduce some anoles, because food would be at the ready, but she questioned whether anoles would, indeed, eat butterflies. I claimed they would, and she back-pedaled, stating that surely A. carolinensis at the least was not swift enough for such a feat.

Neither of us knowing the answer, we decided that some research must be done, so quickly moved to the computer. One quick Google Image search proved her wrong on all counts. Above is the most beautiful of the counterpoints, and here is the story that goes with it, from photographer Larry Ditto of McAllen, Texas: “What can I say?  I walked out into my front yard where there is a butterfly garden and saw this anole eating a queen.  The lizard was climbing an arching trellis with the butterfly in its mouth.  I assume it caught the queen as the butterfly fed at one of our mist flowers (there were many other queens nectaring at these plants).  I grabbed the camera and made many photos while the anole swallowed its prey.”