The Lizard Wizards Are Back!

Deepa Gopal's picture

There is a long list of reasons to visit Florida. For some people it is to go to Disney World, for others, to see the Everglades or the ocean. This week, there is small group of science researchers headed to Florida for a very different reason- to study the brown anole lizard. Read on if you are interested in what the Lizard Team is studying!

Brown Anole Biology

If you have ever been to Florida, chances are you noticed this small brown lizard hanging out in the bushes or on the trunks and low branches of trees. The brown anole is widespread and abundant in Florida, but was originally introduced from Cuba and the Bahamas, which is its native range.

One reason for the brown anole’s success as an introduced species is that it can reproduce quickly and often. Anoles reach sexual maturity within their first year of life and females lay a single egg about once a week during the long breeding season (which is roughly April-October). Because of this, it takes very little time for Anoles to populate a new area.

In Florida, Anole habitat and food is abundant. Anoles largely prey on invertebrates, like roaches, grasshoppers, flying insects, and spiders.  There is usually plenty of food around for Anoles. Anoles prefer dry areas with plenty of leaf litter and bushes and trees to live on. Birds, snakes, rodents and even large spiders prey on brown anoles. 

What are we doing?

The Lizard Team has a long-term project studying anole populations on small islands. There are nine islands in this project, each of which was founded with a population of brown anoles in April 2011. On some of these islands, many more males were released than females (male-biased sex ratio), while other islands had many more females than males (female-biased sex ratio).

"Living Laboratories"

The Lizard Team is using experimental islands instead of a standard laboratory to study the animals in the wild. A lab environment maybe easy to control, but it lacks the complexity of the real world. In the wild it may be harder to keep track of animals because they can leave the study area. The islands in the Lizard project are ideal, because the lizards cannot come and go.

The Lizard Team is interested in following these populations through time, to ask various questions about the ecology and evolution of these animals. Over the coming ten days, the Lizard Team will be blogging about their trip. We will share with you what we have learned so far, what we hope to learn in the future, and what we actually are doing in this ten-day research trip in order to address our research questions. Stay tuned!!