Yesterday I visited Elise, better known as “the anole lady”, to "help" with lizard catching. According to "the anole lady", it was a relatively successful day. We spotted a couple of previously marked males, and a handful of new individuals from both sexes. For someone used to working in the West Indies, I would have categorized such a performance as way bellow par; but it looks like working with A. carolinensis in natural forest around NC is a different story.
Which brings me to next point. Anolis
carolinensis is widely distributed, from Florida to Tennessee, however much of
what we know about this species with regards to its ecology comes from studies
from the southern range of its distribution (e.g., Florida, Georgia, Louisiana). Although, Sandy Echternacht, at UT Knoxville, has
been studying A. carolinensis in
Tennessee where he has found that their behavior is different from what is commonly observed in FL.
In Florida a significant amount of research has been done to
evaluate the impact of A. sagrei (a
somewhat recent invader) on A.
carolinensis. One of the main findings is that A. sagrei seems to be displacing A. carolinensis from the lower portion of tree trunks. To my
surprise nearly all of the activity we observed yesterday took place relatively
high, above 3 meters. Moreover, although
we saw a nice amount of movement, in one instance a male travelled
approximately 5 meters, none of the individuals ventured lower than 1.75
meters. Instead, individuals moved from tree to tree by the using connecting
braches or by jumping between them. How common is this behavior (i.e. selection
of relatively high perches in the absence of congeners) is an open question
waiting to be answered. Its response might shed some light into our current
understanding of the outcome of the interactions between A. carolinensis and A.
sagrei. For example, if we were
working in Florida, I would have told Elise "you see, A. sagrei is
displacing A. carolinensis"; however no A. sagrei here, which brings me back
to the title of the blog. Working with competition is not for the faint of
heart. It takes some clever thinking to design an elegant experiment, and even then
you are always left wondering if the species' evolutionary history might
partially account for the observed pattern.