Far from all the fauna of the West Indies survived the hurricanes of 2017. What saved the reptiles? Long fingers!
Ecologist Colin Donihue from Harvard University is studying lizards living in the Caribbean islands – in particular, on the Turks and Caicos Islands.
In 2017, powerful hurricanes hit the West Indies, and they prompted the scientist to solve the problem. He decided to see how the lizards survived the natural disaster. The Turks and Caicos were badly affected: the trees were torn up by the roots, and many wild animals died.
After studying the populations of lizards, the scientist determined which reptiles could survive the onset of the wind. It turned out that lizards with longer fingers and limbs survived. In particular, the average size of the forelimbs, as well as the toes on the hind legs, were longer by an average of 6.1%, on the forelimbs – by 9.2%. The length of the animals on average decreased by 1.4%, and the femurs – by 6%.
Scientists suggested that reptiles clung to branches – so they survived gusts of wind speeds of up to 200 km / h. It is not excluded that it was these features of the structure that became the key to survival (and that later they would be inherited by descendants of lizards). Long limbs can hold on to the support more tightly, and small hips reduce the effect of the sail in strong winds. To confirm this idea, experts conducted laboratory experiments involving 47 native species.
Summarizing the results of the study, its authors note that this is a rare opportunity to see natural selection and evolution in action. Look at how Hurricane Irma destroyed the Caribbean.