Lizards that live in areas, where frequent hurricanes, have larger pads compared to their relatives who live in quieter areas, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. According to zoologists, this feature probably helps they can hold on to the plants during strong winds.
Extreme climatic events such as drought, cold snap or a hurricane, can significantly affect the process of natural selection, affecting the body, which is very different from the everyday. However, scientists are still not there, can infrequent, but large-scale events have a long-term evolutionary consequences for the species. To date, such data exist only for the Galapagos finchesliving on a small, isolated island: ornithologists found that the years of extreme precipitation and drought affect natural selection, however, the alternation of climatic events can change the direction and erase the evolutionary trends in the scale of decades. Now, zoologists were able to show the impact of extreme weather events on natural selection for example lizards.
In 2017, right after hurricane Irma and Mary, a group of researchers under the leadership of Donahue Colin (Colin M. Donihue) from Washington University in St. Louis conducted a detailed study iguanaman of anolis lizards (Anolis scriptus), living on the Turks and Caicos Islands. Scientists noticed that the surviving reptiles of the finger pads are larger than the General population, which lived in the region before the hurricanes, but, nevertheless, the question of whether this selection to fixation of permanent phenotypic differences over time remained open.
To find out, the researchers after 18 months, again went to Turks and Caicos Islands and analyzed the populations living there. The measurements showed that the effects of natural selection preserved, and the features were transferred to the generations. However, the zoologists decided to go ahead and find out whether hurricanes are more long-term evolutionary consequences for lizards. To do this, they analyzed populations of lizards (Anolis sagrei), living on 12 Islands, and then 188 species of anolis in General. These data are compared with data from the National oceanic and atmospheric research on hurricanes over the past 70 years in different regions, starting with North Atlantic and ending in the North Pacific ocean.
In the end, they were able to confirm that the species that live in the “troubled” regions, have larger pads at both the front and rear limbs. Zoologists believe that this feature helps the animal better to cling to trees and bushes during hurricanes. The correlation between the size of fingertips and climate events can be explained in two ways. On the one hand, as shown by the example of anolis from Turks and Caicos Islands, natural selection may have long-term consequences that are not erased during the quiet periods between hurricanes, and other storms can change the environment so that the pressure selection will also change and will remain even during periods of calm.
Today zoologists notice that the animal also affects climate change. For example, bears Kajaki began often eat berries, and predators of the Arctic became more often to steal the eggs.