Female sand lizard looks for food


This 29 May 2019 video shows a female sand lizard looking for insect food around Teesdalia nudicaulis plants.

Jos Ketelaar made this video in Limburg province in the Netherlands.

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Lizard pollinates South African flowers


This 12 May 2019 video is about Guthriea capensis flowers in South Africa. Pseudocordylus subviridis lizards pollinate them.

How Cayman Islands lizards adapt


This December 2018 video says about itself:

The Lizard’s Tale 101: Meet the Anoles

Anoles are small lizards with an abundance of charm. There are over 400 species of anoles, scattered all over the American and Caribbean tropics: from remote rainforests in the Bahamas, to busy cities on the mainland. In recent years, anoles have come to be viewed as a great model organism for understanding key evolutionary principles. They’ve helped scientists tackle many of the big questions in biology: from the links between ecology and evolution, to the effects of physiology and behaviour. The results are nothing short of eye-opening.

From the University of Plymouth in England:

Biological changes among invasive species

April 8, 2019

A remote island in the Caribbean could offer clues as to how invasive species are able to colonise new territories and then thrive in them, a new study suggests.

Scientists from the University of Plymouth have recently completed extensive research into a lizard population on the Cayman Islands.

Up until the mid-1980s, there had never been a recorded sighting of the Maynard’s Anole (Anolis maynardi) on Cayman Brac island despite it being less than 10km from its native territory, Little Cayman.

However, since the species was first discovered on Cayman Brac in 1987 — in what is thought to have been a human-assisted colonisation — its population has spread right across the 39km² island.

For this study, recent graduate Vaughn Bodden and Lecturer in Conservation Biology Dr Robert Puschendorf conducted a detailed analysis of the invasive species.

They wanted to assess whether individuals at the forefront of the invasion have developed distinct biological traits that are advantageous for dispersal, and compared their findings to animals in the area of first introduction and the native population on Little Cayman.

They discovered the Cayman Brac population has diverged morphologically from the native population, and within the invasive range there was trend of increasing forelimb length from the core to range edge areas. This ran contrary to the expected findings that longer hindlimbs would be the trait selected as a dispersal-related phenotype.

They also showed that the introduced population had lower levels of parasite prevalence, and that both males and females were of significantly higher body condition than the native population.

Writing in the Journal of Zoology, they say the results are a perfect example of how a species can colonise a new territory, and the biological adaptations it can make in order to do so.

Vaughn, who graduated with a First from the BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology programme in 2018, said: “There has been a history of lizard studies indicating that longer hindlimbs are an important factor affecting movement ability, so to not find longer hind limbed animals on the range edge was a surprise. For parasites, we found a clear decreasing trend in prevalence within the invasive population from the area of first introduction to the range edge, indicating that the parasites lag behind the host during periods of range expansion. We think our findings add to the growing body of literature that demonstrates the complex dynamics of species’ invasions. The results highlight that the animals on the range edge of an invasion are likely to be experiencing different ecological selection pressures that can result in changes in behaviour, morphology, and health for the animals.”

Dr Puschendorf has spent several years researching the consequences of emerging infectious diseases and climate change on biodiversity, with a particular focus on Central America. He added: “Biological invasions are an important conservation threat across the world. However, every invasion needs to be carefully investigated to identify impacts to native eco-systems and identify potential mitigation strategies. In this instance there is likely to be limited overlap with, and therefore a limited threat to, the endemic anole population — the Cayman Brac Anole (Anolis luteosignifer) — because one inhabit the crowns of trees while the other is found closer to the ground. This in some ways highlights the challenges biodiversity managers face when managing species invasions with limited resources, and emphasises the need for greater collaboration among scientific and policy communities.”

Lizards, egg-laying and live-bearing


This 11 March 2019 video says about itself:

The Three Toed Skink (Saiphos equalis) is a beautiful burrowing lizard from the east coast of Australia! This species has some special adaptations I highlight in this video along with showing some awesome natural colour variation! Its calm nature, beautiful appearance and rarity in the reptile hobby makes it a perfect lizard to showcase here in the first episode of Species Special!

Special thanks to the Macquarie University Lizard Lab.

From the University of Sydney in Australia:

Biologists observe a three-toed skink lay eggs and give birth to a live baby

April 2, 2019

In a world first, researchers at the University of Sydney have observed a normally live-bearing Australian lizard lay three eggs and then weeks later, give birth to a live baby from the same pregnancy. This is the first time such an event has been documented in a single litter of vertebrate babies.

The three-toed skink (Saiphos equalis) is one of only a handful of rare “bimodally reproductive” species, in which some individuals lay eggs and others give birth to live babies. But up until now, no vertebrate has ever been observed to do both in one litter.

“It is a very unusual discovery”, said Dr Camilla Whittington, from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences and Sydney School of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney.

The three-toed skink is native to the east coast of Australia. In the northern highlands of New South Wales the animals normally give birth to live young, but those living in and around Sydney lay eggs.

“We were studying the genetics of these skinks when we noticed one of the live-bearing females lay three eggs,” Dr Whittington said. “Several weeks later she gave birth to another baby. Seeing that baby was a very exciting moment!”

The observation will be published in Biology Letters this week, along with advanced microscopy of the egg-coverings.

There are at least 150 evolutionary transitions from egg-laying to live-bearing in vertebrates said Dr Whittington, who led the study alongside Dr Melanie Laird, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Otago, and Emeritus Professor Mike Thompson.

“The earliest vertebrates were egg-layers, but over thousands of years, developing embryos in some species were held inside the body for longer, until some animals began to give live birth. People mostly think about humans and other mammals giving birth. But there are many species of reptile that give birth, too.”

Dr Whittington said that the unusual observation of both egg laying and live birth in a single litter shows that the three-toed skink is an ideal model for understanding pregnancy. “It makes Australia one of the best places in the world to study the evolution of live birth, because we can watch evolution in action,” she said.

“Put in the context of evolutionary biology, being able to switch between laying eggs and giving live birth could allow animals to hedge their bets according to environmental conditions,” Dr Whittington said.

This observation helps make the three-toed skink, which looks like a baby snake with tiny legs, one of the “weirdest lizards in the world”, she said.

Further research into this small lizard, which seems to occupy a grey area between live birth and egg-laying, will help determine how and why species make major reproductive leaps.

Basilisk, squirrel at Panama bird feeder


This video says about itself:

Common Basilisk And
Red-tailed Squirrel Meet On The Feeder – April 2, 2019

An uneasy interaction between a female Common Basilisk and a Red-tailed Squirrel as they attempt to share the bounty of fruit on the feeder.

Watch LIVE 24/7 with highlights and viewing resources at http://allaboutbirds.org/panamafeeders

The Panama Fruit Feeder Cam is a collaboration between the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Canopy Family, and explore.org.

Dominican Republic lizards, climate change and deforestation


This November 2017 video says about itself:

Lizard battle in Dominican Republic

Epic fight of two male lizards; in the end the loser flees like a bullet!

From the University of Toronto in Canada:

Elevation matters when it comes to climate change, deforestation and species survival

February 25, 2019

Summary: A study examining the impact of deforestation on lizard communities in the Dominican Republic demonstrates differing outcomes at different elevations. In the lowlands, deforestation reduces the number of individuals, but not which species occur in an area. In the highlands, it’s the opposite. When the forest is cut down at higher elevations, the newly created pastures become filled with species found in the warmer lowlands. But locally adapted mountain lizards cannot survive as temperature rises.

University of Toronto student George Sandler was shocked to see the rainforest floor suddenly come to life around him, as if in a scene from an Indiana Jones movie.

“The forest floor started rustling around me,” says Sandler, “as dozens of crabs emerged from holes and crevices. Some were huge, the size of dinner plates. I even spotted a hermit crab climbing up a tree, lugging its heavy shell along with it.”

But Sandler wasn’t in the field to study crabs. He was in the Dominican Republic to take a census of the region’s Anolis lizard species for a study on the effects of deforestation being conducted by researchers Luke Mahler, Luke Frishkoff and collaborators. In the Caribbean nation, deforestation is the main form of natural habitat loss as residents cut down rainforest in order to produce charcoal, as well as create pastures for livestock and farmland for crops.

It is no surprise that deforestation has a profound effect on biodiversity; scientists have been studying this problem around the globe for decades. What is surprising is the difficulty they still face in making detailed predictions about which species survive, especially in relation to other factors such as climate change and natural local conditions.

Now, using the data collected in the census, the research team has discovered details about how Anolis lizards are being affected by the loss of their habitat.

“When it comes to predicting the effects of deforestation,” says Mahler, “elevation matters.”

Mahler is an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (EEB) in the Faculty of Arts & Science at the University of Toronto. Frishkoff led the research while he was a postdoctoral fellow in Mahler’s lab at U of T and is lead author of the paper describing their findings, published today in Nature Ecology & Evolution; he is currently an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. Sandler and researchers from the National Museum of Natural History in Santo Domingo were also co-authors.

Mahler and Frishkoff analyzed populations of lizards in both lowland and highland regions affected by deforestation. Generally, the lowlands are warmer than the highlands due to altitude; also, forest canopy blocks direct sunlight, making forests at any altitude cooler than their immediate surroundings.

“It turns out that deforestation changes lizard communities in fundamentally different ways in the lowlands as compared to the highlands,” says Mahler. “In the lowlands, deforestation reduces the number of individuals, but not which species occur in an area. In the highlands, it’s the opposite.”

“When the forest is cut down at higher elevations,” says Frishkoff, “the newly created high elevation pastures become filled with species we saw down in the warmer lowlands. But, the locally adapted mountain lizards cannot survive.”

The invasion into the highlands by lowland-dwelling lizards was made possible by a combination of human activity and natural factors; i.e. deforestation and elevation respectively. Thanks to the altitude, the temperature of deforested fields in the highlands was comparable to the temperature of forested lowlands.

As it is in many regions around the world, the problem of deforestation in the Dominican Republic is dire. In 2016, Mahler announced the discovery of a previously unknown chameleon-like Anolis lizard on the island of Hispaniola. In the paper describing the discovery, Mahler and his co-authors recommended that the new species, dubbed Anolis landestoyi, be immediately classified as critically endangered because the lizard was threatened by illegal clear-cutting in the region.

Unlike the crabs that crowded around Sandler in the rainforest, the lizards were more elusive and difficult to survey. In order to obtain accurate counts, the students employed a technique known as mark-resight.

“We hiked out to our designated plots,” says Sandler, who was an undergraduate student while conducting the field work and is currently an EEB graduate student at U of T. “Then we walked around looking for lizards. We carried a paint spray gun filled with a non-toxic, water soluble paint — a different colour for each of the six observation periods. If we saw a lizard we would note the species, if it had any paint on it already, and the colour of the paint. Then we would spray the lizard with the paint gun we were carrying, a task that was a little tricky with some of the more skittish species!”

Paint on a lizard indicated that it had already been counted; and the number of unpainted lizards that were observed during each period allowed the researchers to calculate how many lizards were going uncounted.

“It’s not your typical summer job,” says Mahler. “Each survey is essentially a game in which you try to find all the lizards in an area and zap them with paint. It’s a messy affair, but we get great data from it.”

“Our results help us better understand the likely consequences of climate change and how it will interact with human land-use,” says Frishkoff.

For lowland forest Anolis lizards, deforestation just means a decline in abundance or relocating to the highlands. But for highland species, the situation is more critical. Unlike their lowland cousins, they have reached high ground already and in the face of deforestation have nowhere to go — a situation facing more and more species around the world.

“Our data suggest that while many lowland Anolis species might not be seriously affected by deforestation and the gradual warming brought about by climate change,” says Frishkoff, “the opposite is true for the unique mountain lizard species which do not tolerate land-use change well, and which are already on the top of the island.

“Land-use and climate change are a double whammy for these species. If we cut down the mountain forests these lizards have nowhere left to go. Gradual warming might push species up slope, but when you’re already at the top of the mountain, you can’t move any higher.”