Correlated evolution of microhabitat, morphology, and behavior in West Indian Anolis lizards: a test of the habitat matrix model

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The habitat matrix model (HMM) explains convergence among arboreal animals as a result of the correlated evolution of morphology, locomotor mode, and habitat use. Although the HMM has generated important insights into the ecology of arboreal species, these tests have left a gap in the habitat-behavior-morphology story by focusing primarily on locomotor performance in lab and field experiments and thus failing to include data on locomotor behavior of undisturbed animals in the wild. We combined data on undisturbed locomotion, habitat use, and morphology for 31 species of arboreal lizard in the genus Anolis and used these data to test nine specific predictions arising from the HMM. We find strong support for nearly all aspects of this model. The addition of data on locomotion by undisturbed wild animals offers a more direct and compelling case for the HMM than most previous tests.



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  • (a) In the first canonical correlation between habitat and behavior, species found on narrow perches tend to walk, as outlined in Prediction 4, while species found on broad perches tend to run (Prediction 7). (b) In the second canonical correlation between habitat and behavior, species living on dense, low perches, have a tendency to jump (Prediction 1).

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  • (a) In the first canonical correlation between behavior and morphology, species that walk frequently have shorter forelimbs and hindlimbs, consistent with Prediction 5 of the HMM. Walking species also have more lamellae. (b) In the second canonical correlation between behavior and morphology, species that jump and move infrequently have shorter forelimbs and longer tails, consistent with Prediction 2.

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  • (a) In the first canonical correlation between habitat and morphology, species that use narrow perches have shorter limbs (Prediction 6). (b) In the second canonical correlation between habitat and morphology, species that use dense, low perches tend to have longer hindlimbs and tails (Prediction 3), although this relationship is not significant in our dataset. This is true whether the unusual Anolis chamaeleolis is included or excluded from the analysis.

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