Researchers test lizards in the wind tunnel

Researchers test lizards in the wind tunnel

The animals had only one pole to hold on. Researchers have set lizards in a wind tunnel. The result is the answer to a scientific question – and a curious video.

It was a coincidence that Colin Donihue came to investigate how a hurricane affects the development of lizard species. In fact, Donihue and his team researched lizards on the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean for quite different reasons. But then, after the departure of the scientists, the islands were hit by hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Donihue then decided to return once more, just weeks after the storms. Because his collected data offered him a rare opportunity: he could investigate whether the hurricanes had acted as a selection process. Lizards with which characteristics had survived? And what had the storm done?

Since the lizards of the species Anolis Scriptures differ significantly from the hurricanes of their species before the natural disaster, probably a natural selection has taken place, the researchers write in the journal “Nature”.

For their study, they examined the length of the limbs and the feet of the lizards. They found out: After the hurricanes found on the islands suddenly more lizards with large feet and long front legs. Presumably, these had survived the storms sooner.

In addition to natural selection, there may have been other reasons for having larger feet and longer legs. The researchers can not rule out that lizards were blown from other parts of the island to the study site, which happens to have longer legs and larger feet. However, they consider this unlikely, because the islands are small and the vegetation is homogeneous.

Lizards in the storm:
In addition, there are already studies that show that larger foot in lizards related to better stapling ability. This is also an indication that after the storms were not accidentally more lizards with larger feet on the islands, but they had an advantage and father survived.

How lizards behave in hurricanes has hardly been researched so far. Therefore, the researchers made another investigation in which they exposed and filmed nearly 50 lizards from the islands a strong wind. So they could watch the lizards act in a hurricane.

The lizards held their forelegs to a pole, the only hold the experimental setup offered. In any case, until the wind became too strong – no animal could cling to the end. Thanks to protective nets and upholstery, all lizards were released unscathed after the experiment.

Climate change is expected to increase natural disasters such as hurricanes in the coming decades. Therefore, it could become more important how such events influence evolution.

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