An aerodynamic perspective on hurricane-induced selection on Anolis lizards

WashU affiliated authors: Anthony Herrel (Dept. of Biology)


  1. Studies have demonstrated that hurricanes can drive selection in Neotropical anoles. In a recent study, it was shown that post-hurricane survivors showed longer toepad areas and, surprisingly, shorter femurs.
  2. One potential explanation for the reduction in femur length is that increased drag on individuals with longer femurs causes them to be blown off their perch. Consequently, lizards with shorter femora might survive better in hurricanes.
  3. To gain insight into the form–function relationships of drag reduction in perched lizards exposed to high-velocity winds, we quantified drag forces on Anolis lizard models in realistic grasping positions using computational fluid dynamics.
  4. We showed that overall drag, as well as the relatively high drag at the hindlimbs strongly increase with the distance of the pelvic region from the perch. As optimal postures to resist sustained arboreal pulling involve extended limbs, longer hindlimbs increase the chance of having the limbs and pelvic region positioned outside the zone in which efficient shielding from the wind by the perch occurs.
  5. Our study underlines the complexity of performance trade-offs on the evolution of limb morphology in arboreal lizards, and emphasizes the importance of generally ignored functions such as aerodynamic drag reduction in arboreal ecosystems.