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Blowing in the wind: Experimental assessment of clinging performance and behavior in Anolis lizards during hurricane-force winds

Cite this dataset

Kolbe, Jason; DiPaolo, Emma; Kolbe, Jason (2023). Blowing in the wind: Experimental assessment of clinging performance and behavior in Anolis lizards during hurricane-force winds [Dataset]. Dryad.


1. Extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, can be ecologically devastating and cause widespread mortality. Recent studies in Anolis lizards report hurricane-induced phenotypic shifts and selection favoring morphological variation related to clinging performance. Although it is difficult to observe organismal responses during extreme events in nature, we can experimentally simulate the high-speed winds associated with hurricanes to evaluate the putative mechanism underlying observed patterns of natural selection.

2. In this study, we used two laboratory experiments to better understand the clinging performance and behavior of Anolis lizards when experiencing hurricane-force winds. We assessed the physical ability of lizards when using the combined function of their claws, limbs, toepads, and other traits to resist forces pulling them off a perch. We also evaluated the combination of this physical clinging ability of lizards and their behavioral responses to avoid being blown off a perch during high winds. We assessed behavior that could decrease exposure of lizards to wind and increase their clinging ability.

3. Clinging force measurements revealed variation in performance among species and substrates not reflected in clinging times for lizards experiencing hurricane-force winds, revealing the importance of behavior when experiencing high winds. The most arboreal species (A. carolinensis) had substantially longer clinging times on rough substrates compared to the other species, presumably due to its larger toepads for increased clinging as well as its shorter limbs that reduced drag.

4. Under high-speed winds, lizards commonly shifted to the more protected leeward side of dowels, especially on broad and rough substrates, presumably to reduce exposure. This reveals how behavior can mediate factors influencing clinging ability during hurricanes and, in conjunction with ecologically relevant variation in morphology and substrate properties, contribute to clinging performance.

5. Our experiments reveal that behavior strongly influences clinging performance during high winds beyond that predicted by physical traits alone. Thus, microhabitat selection of perches and the position of a lizard on its perch during a hurricane will likely have important consequences for clinging performance. This may alter how selection acts on morphological traits and influence the susceptibility of different species to these extreme weather events.


National Science Foundation of Sri Lanka, Award: IOS- 1806420