I noted recently that the brown anoles here in Staniel Cay seem exceptionally skittish, and we don’t know why. Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but we’ve found a trio of three-footed lizards. What’s going on?
One team member’s hypothesis of a rare genetic mutation seems improbable. Rather, predation seems a more likely explanation. However, as research on the incidence of tail regeneration has made clear, predation can lead to high rates of injuries in a population in two distinct ways. On the one hand, if predation rates are high, then one might expect the number of injured animals–attacked, but not devoured–to also increase. On the other hand, even with a low rate of predatory attacks, the occurrence of injuries might be high if the predators are inefficient and allow many victims to escape. In this light, I suggest explanation #2 as my working hypothesis. Many of the tiny islands on which we are working are thick with black-headed gulls (Larus ridibundus). I bet they harass the lizards mercilessly, but are not very adept at lizard subjugation, and thus end up eating only bits and pieces, while the rest of the lizard gets away. Anyone got a better idea, or know anything about gull predatory success on lizards? And, more importantly, with our trip 40% over, any guesses on how many oddly-footed lizards we’ll find?
Also, with the report of a five-footed A. sagrei in Taiwan, we now have a sufficient range of variation to examine the relationship between foot number and sprint speed in lizards.
Finally, and seriously, I am collecting reports on the occurrence of lizards missing a foot or part of a limb (more than just digit loss). Any information you might have would be greatly appreciated. Please contact me at email@example.com.