Phenotypic response to a major hurricane in Anolis lizards in urban and forest habitats

Kevin J. Avilés-Rodríguez, Kristin M. Winchell, Luis F. De León, Liam J. Revell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Little is known about the synergistic impacts of urbanization and hurricanes on synanthropes. We compared morphological traits of the lizard Anolis cristatellus on Puerto Rico sampled before the 2017 category 5 Hurricane Maria and 4 and 11 months after the hurricane. We measured limb lengths, toepad size and the number of subdigital scales, termed lamellae, that facilitate adhesion. We hypothesized that the hurricane should have selected for longer limbs and larger toepads with more lamellae, which are traits that other research has suggested to increase clinging performance. Given prior work demonstrating that urban lizards of this species tend to share this phenotype, we also predicted increased phenotypic overlap between post-hurricane urban-forest pairs. Instead, we found that forest and urban populations alike had smaller body sizes, along with a small size-adjusted decrease in most traits, at 4 months after the hurricane event. Many traits returned to prehurricane values by 11 months post-hurricane. Toe morphology differed in the response to the hurricane between urban and forest populations, with significantly decreased trait values in forest but not in urban populations. This difference could be attributable to the different biomechanical demands of adhesion to anthropogenic substrates compared with natural substrates during intense winds. Overall, more research will be required to understand the impacts of hurricanes on urban species and whether differential natural selection can result.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)880-895
Number of pages16
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2021


  • anole
  • Hurricane Maria
  • morphological adaptation
  • Puerto Rico
  • synanthrope
  • toepad
  • urbanization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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