I’ve been somewhat silent on the blog about just what I’ve been doing over in Paros looking into experimental islets. It’s time to break that silence – we got our permits and I just introduced lizards to 5 small islands in the Cyclades!
It’s been a long process of negotiations with the national and local governments to get permissions for this experiment. It was touch-and-go up until 2 days ago! But, with a few compromises, we got permission to start the experiment. In the end, it wasn’t possible to get permissions to build rock walls on the experimental islets, so instead, this introduction will study the evolution of the small-island phenotype of Podarcis erhardii. Let me explain that a bit more:
The Aegean Wall lizard occurs throughout the Cyclades on islands as large as Naxos (440 square miles) to small rocky islets a few hundred feet in diameter. Lizards living on small islands tend to be larger, have broader diets, and harder bite forces than their large-island kin. These differences are extremely robust and I’m wrapping up another study this summer detailing these patterns.
Introducing Naxian lizards (that is, large-island lizards) to these small experimental islets will allow me to, generation by generation, test whether this small-island phenotype repeatedly evolves, what traits result in highest fitness for those individuals, and how quickly evolution in these contexts can proceed. Furthermore, with detailed baseline environmental data and paired islets without lizards, I will also be able to track the impact of lizard introduction on small-island ecosystem dynamics. All in all, it’s a fascinating opportunity to really thoroughly understand the evolution and ecology of these cool lizards.
There’ll be more updates soon showing you the islands and the lizards, but for now, here’s a video of lizards being introduced to one of my experimental islets:
And here’s the picture of the first celebratory ice cream after the fact. There was a second a few hours later and I’ve a feeling there might be a third in my immediate future.
*This work approved in permit number 111665/1669 from the Greek Ministry of the Environment.