Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 181, Issue 7, pp 965–972 | Cite as

Tests of the contribution of acclimation to geographic variation in water loss rates of the West Indian lizard Anolis cristatellus

  • Alex R. GundersonEmail author
  • Jeremy Siegel
  • Manuel Leal
Original Paper


Phenotypic plasticity can contribute to the process of adaptive radiation by facilitating population persistence in novel environments. West Indian Anolis lizards provide a classic example of an adaptive radiation, in which divergence has occurred along two primary ecological axes: structural microhabitat and climate. Adaptive plasticity in limb morphology is hypothesized to have facilitated divergence along the structural niche axis in Anolis, but very little work has explored plasticity in physiological traits. Here, we experimentally ask whether Puerto Rican Anolis cristatellus from mesic and xeric habitats differ in desiccation rates, and whether these lizards exhibit an acclimation response to changes in relative humidity. We first present microclimatic data collected at lizard perch sites that demonstrate that abiotic conditions experienced by lizards differ between mesic and xeric habitat types. In Experiment 1, we measured desiccation rates of lizards from both habitats maintained under identical laboratory conditions. This experiment demonstrated that desiccation rates differ between populations; xeric lizards lose water more slowly than mesic lizards. In Experiment 2, lizards from each habitat were either maintained under the conditions of Experiment 1, or under extremely low relative humidity. Desiccation rates did not differ between lizards from the same habitat maintained under different treatments and xeric lizards maintained lower desiccation rates than mesic lizards within each treatment. Our results demonstrate that A. cristatellus does not exhibit an acclimation response to abrupt changes of hydric conditions, and suggest that tropical Anolis lizards might be unable to exhibit physiological plasticity in desiccation rates in response to varying climatic conditions.


Acclimation Climate Desiccation Adaptive radiation Geographic variation Anolis cristatellus Puerto Rico 



We would like to thank Ray Huey, Paul Hertz, Brian Powell, David Steinberg, and three anonymous reviewers for providing helpful comments that improved the manuscript. We would also like to thank the Mata de Plátano (Intermerican University, Bayamón) and Isla Magueyes (University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez) field stations, and Tony and Joan at T.J. Ranch for logistical support while in Puerto Rico. We are very grateful to the Departamento de Recursos Naturales y Ambientales of Puerto Rico, which provided all the necessary permits for conducting fieldwork. We followed the Recommendations for the Care of Amphibians and Reptiles (Pough 1991) in the treatment of all animals used in this study. The research presented here was approved by the Institutional Animal Care of Duke University. This work was supported by a Mellon Dissertation Research Grant from the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at Duke University and a Bryden Graduate Student Research Grant from the North Carolina Academy of Sciences to ARG.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alex R. Gunderson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jeremy Siegel
    • 1
  • Manuel Leal
    • 1
  1. 1.Biology DepartmentDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

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