Natural selection in a hurricane: The lizards that won’t let go

Natural selection in a hurricane: The lizards that won’t let go


These lizards are leaping for science. Well, not so much leaping, as falling. But their tumbles are helping scientists answer a question. Could hurricanes drive natural selection? Hurricanes are destructive – perhaps too destructive to influence evolution, with species survival being more random than influenced by specific traits. And while some scientists suspect that hurricanes could drive natural selection, this has never been documented. That is, until a group of researchers happened to be measuring Anole lizards in the Caribbean. They surveyed lizards on two small islands in Turks and Caicos, just days before Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck. Winds reached speeds of more than 200 kilometres per hour, felling trees and flattening vegetation. But after the devastation, the scientists had a rare opportunity to see how the hurricanes affected the lizard populations. They went back and measured the lizards left on the islands. On average, those that survived had larger toepads and shorter femurs – the males also had smaller bodies. Researchers suspect that these small differences might help the animals cope with high winds. But how? Well that brings us back to lizards falling into nets. This simple test, done with a leaf blower, demonstrates how they respond to high wind. To stay on the branch, the lizards tuck their forelegs under their body and out of the wind. But their hind legs stick out, catching the wind until they ultimately lose their grip. The scientists say that shorter femurs and smaller bodies could help them hang on. Additionally, the lizard’s toepads are covered in tiny ridges. Larger pads means more ridges and so better grip. Right now, this is mostly speculation, but it could explain the differences the researchers measured after the hurricanes. And that raises the possiblity that hurricanes could act as a selection pressure – favouring lizards with wind resistant traits. And if the traits stay in the population, that could drive evolution. Picking apart processes like this will help conservationists predict how ecosystems adapt to extreme weather events – which we’ll see more of as the climate warms. But for now, let’s appreciate these little Anoles for their contribution to evolutionary science.

98 thoughts on “Natural selection in a hurricane: The lizards that won’t let go

  1. So this is where money goes, for pseudo scientist blowing lizards off of PVC pipe to fantasize about evolution.

  2. If hurricanes influence evolution, wouldn't the effect on the lizards already be seen, i.e. they would have evolved in the way postulated?

  3. You are like a hurricane. There's calm in your eye.
    And I'm gettin' blown away
    To somewhere safer where the feeling stays.
    I want to love you but I'm getting blown away

  4. Asteroids influence natural selection, why not hurricanes? You might as well say, Nature influences natural selection.

  5. Now that hurricanes have been becoming bigger and bigger, it is going too be us, the human, turn to be selected to survive on earth by those hurricane which is really sad;.;

  6. could someone please explain: what sort of evolution or natural selection or nature events lead to me having a 14-15 centimetre phallus (peepee dingdong wang tang) with an average or less girth!

    risk of going down the Gorilla way 😕 4cm¡!

  7. CUTE but wrong.

    the inherant – is NOT memorable (via brain matter)

    although a microbe can "survive" – based on margarine dynos
    IT IS NOT the REASON for the lizards wing flange.

    remember – its NOT he arms (it's the penile flight or fight base.meme)

  8. My Anoles are resistant to falling. Dont ask me how, but you drop one of my Carolinas or my Bahamans and they will magically grab onto something and keep there.

  9. Why does the clip remind me of a Nazi experiment on human's resistance to high winds that I've seen on a documentary… :/

  10. Was there anyone who actually doubted that the massive death to the least fit festival known as a hurricane could be an evolutionary pressure? I want to meet these fools that thought that a lizard would survive a hurricane no matter what their shape was.

  11. Whoever animated that hurricane at 0:30 doesn't even have a rudimentary intuitive idea of how those storms function. Reminds me of the time I watched a space documentary and they were explaining how a moon revolving around a planet causes the planet to have a lesser revolution around the moon — only the CG animator had both the moon and the planet on the same side of the revolution.

    This is why everyone has to go to primary school, folks.

  12. The dumbest theory ive ever heard. To the scientist that doubts the power of a hurricane; go outside and try to survive primitively in a hurricane. 21st century scientist would have 50% survival rate according to my study of butterflies that are sprayed by my hose in the backyard.

  13. JESUS CRIST NATURAL SELECTION? SOUNDS LIKE THE SCHOOL SHOOTER SHIT LMAO. LMAO THESE SCIENTIST PROB ARE THE DUMB ONES.

  14. Hopefully this does not spark a rage comment spree:

    Wouldn't this explain the main difference between human races by looking at the country a race originates from?
    For example, Jamaicans are well adapted to warm climates due to their skin tone and higher heat tolerance yet Russians have tougher builds for the cold and hard climate.
    This may be the general idea yet a person, from any race, in a cold region is much different to one in a warm climate.
    Can this be the subtle genetic ideas each generation adapts to over time?

  15. if the lizard is in the wild they will hide under the rocks and NOT climb the highest pole they can find in the area!… so this is total BS theory!

  16. Anyone who's lived in the Carolinas could have told you this… We get hurricanes and big storms every year for months out of the year so of course they'd need to be able to hold on.

  17. we got thes little buggers after hurricane katrina in new orleans. we just had the green garden lizards and now the anole has taken over.

  18. What if you artificially bred these lizards by how long they could hold on to a tree in a wind chamber until they were much better than wild lizards, then reintroduced this variant species back into the wild?

  19. Allways loved these little lizards.
    Every trip down south ive seen these little guys and its nice conpared to the rats and pigeons you see up north in the city…….

  20. "Could hurricanes drive natural selection?"
    Natural selection is driven by survival. Hurricanes are part of the environment which every living being needs to survive.
    Conclusively: Yes.
    Why waste 3 minutes on an obvious answer?

  21. Talking about 'natural' selection when the military admits it has for decades, had the power to generate / degenerate / steer hurricanes. These phoney baloney scientists just hunt for any way to suckle up grant money.

  22. do u ever Research Lizards Home > ?
    I'm Serious There's Can Comunication One other One Very Good .
    How Smart IQ Lizards ? ( there can Reports any situation at around me , to Big Lizard ! ) we talking About Research Science !

  23. At first, I thought they were showing off their years of gymnastic skills…but it turned out to be another one of those animal abuse videos on Youtube, for "science purposes."

  24. Interesting. I wonder if Hurricanes can pick-up and carry these little critters from the islands to the main land, intact and alive.

  25. They were using leaf blowers on those lizards and I got mad because I learned this in class and I’ll I could think was “ HOW DARE YOU DO THIS TO NATURES MOST INOCCENT CREATURES!?”

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