Which lizards can weather storms?

Hurricanes Irma and Maria caused vegetation damage on Pine Cay and Water Cay in the Turks and Caicos islands. Lizards with specific physical traits tended to survive the storms. ©Colin Donihue

Long, strong back legs don’t help lizards survive storms such as Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, according to new research. For the first time, researchers looked at how physical characteristics of lizards in Turks and Caicos affect their ability to survive storms. They measured forelimbs, hindlimbs and core body lengths and took photographs of their toe pads. Comparing data from before and after the storms hit, the researchers found that surviving lizards had larger toe pads on both their forelimbs and hindlimbs. More lizards after the storm also had longer fore legs and shorter back legs than the lizards before the hurricane. Overall, surviving lizards seemed to have smaller bodies. After conducting an experiment aiming a leaf blower at perched Turks and Caicos anole lizards (Anolis scriptus) to simulate a storm, researchers suggest the longer forelimbs and shorter hindlimbs help the lizards cling onto trees and not get pushed by high winds.

Read more in National Geographic or check out the study in Nature.