Video: Lizards, Hurricane Winds & Evolution

August 19, 2018

Researcher Colin Donihue has published a study in the journal Nature that looks at the link between hurricanes and evolution, with the research centered around Hurricane Irma’s effects on lizards in Turks and Caicos last year, with research indicating that trait shifts “may have given those lizard survivors a clinging advantage during the hurricane’s strong winds.”

A story on Mr. Donihue’s blog said, “Hurricanes are immensely destructive and 2017 was a particularly extreme year. Last September, we were surveying Anolis scriptus populations in Turks and Caicos just before Hurricane Irma hit the islands.”

“We realized that, just from being in the right place at the right time, we had a unique dataset that might inform whether Hurricanes can be agents of natural selection. Other extreme climate events have been shown to have evolutionary implications.

“So, we revisited the islands six weeks [and two hurricanes] after our first visit. We found significant shifts in both the limb dimensions and toepad surface area of the surviving lizards relative to the populations we’d sampled before the storms. These trait shifts, we think, may have given those lizard survivors a clinging advantage during the hurricane’s strong winds.”

The Atlantic noted, “He found that, on average, the post-hurricane lizards had toe pads that were 6 to 9 percent bigger than those of pre-hurricane individuals, and front legs that were 2 percent longer.

“This wasn’t because the bodies of specific lizards had changed; there’s no evidence that the toes of adult anoles can grow by that amount. Instead, the storms had simply wiped out all the lizards with small toe pads.

“By selecting for individuals that were better at clinging to surfaces—and presumably at withstanding high winds—the storms had changed the average proportions of the population.

click here Bermuda 2017 Hurricane Season

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