First supper is a life changer for lizards

July 03, 2013

For young lizards born into this unpredictable world, their very first meal can be a major life changer. So say researchers who report evidence on July 3 in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, that this early detail influences how the lizards disperse from their birthplaces, how they grow, and whether they survive. A quick or slow meal even influences the lizards' reproductive success two years later in a surprising way.

The findings demonstrate something very important: fleeting moments in time really can change the lives of individuals and the evolutionary paths of populations in a profound manner.

"A mere detail in life can make all the difference for the fate of individuals," says Manuel Massot of Université Pierre et Marie Curie. "Consequently, minor environmental variations can also influence evolution."

Massot and his colleague Pedro Aragón say they expect this kind of disproportionate response to small events, which they call "phenotypic resonance," to be more common early in life.

The researchers studied the lizard Zootoca vivipara. The species is a live-bearing lizard, meaning it doesn't lay eggs like most lizards do. Once the lizards are born, they are on their own. Their parents are no help to them when it comes to catching their first live insect or spider for dinner.

"The first meal of life is a great challenge for them, and it is for this reason that we expected that a single meal can condition a good start in life," Massot says.

Massot and Aragón experimentally manipulated the early experiences of the lizards by capturing pregnant females and bringing them back to the lab to give birth. The researchers provided half of the lizards with an early meal, while the others had to find their first meal in nature. They then released the lizards back out into the national park where they came from, recapturing them over a period of two years to see how they fared in the wild.

The data show that this single meal had a significant and long-lasting impact. Lizards that had been fed were less likely to pick up and move. Fed lizards seemed to be harder to catch and were therefore less often recaptured by researchers. Interestingly, lizards that did not eat early in life gave birth to larger litters two years later.

The researchers say evolutionary biologists in particular should take note: a minor change may dramatically alter the lives of individuals. And those changes can push populations and species in directions that classical natural selection wouldn't necessarily predict.
-end-
Current Biology, Massot et al.: "Phenotypic Resonance from a Single Meal in an Insectivorous Lizard."

Cell Press

Related Lizards Articles from Brightsurf:

Not just lizards - alligators can regrow their tails too
A team of researchers from Arizona State University and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries have uncovered that young alligators have the ability to regrow their tails up to three-quarters of a foot, or 18% of their total body length.

Cockroaches and lizards inspire new robot developed by Ben-Gurion University researcher
'The AmphiSTAR uses a sprawling mechanism inspired by cockroaches, and it is designed to run on water at high speeds like the basilisk lizard,' says Ben-Gurion University Prof.

Giant lizards learnt to fly over millions of years
Most detailed every study into how animals evolve to better suit their environments shows that pterosaurs become more efficient at flying over millions of years before going extinct with the dinosaurs.

Study highlights lack of evidence for plasticity-led evolution in lizards
Scientists have challenged a popular theory behind the evolution of similar traits in island lizards, in a study published recently in eLife.

Biodiversity may limit invasions: Lessons from lizards on Panama Canal islands
Introduced species can become invasive, damaging ecosystems and disrupting economies through explosive population growth.

Double take: New study analyzes global, multiple-tailed lizards
Curtin research into abnormal regeneration events in lizards has led to the first published scientific review on the prevalence of lizards that have re-generated not just one, but two, or even up to six, tails.

Lizards develop new 'love language'
Free from the risk of predators and intent to attract potential mates, male lizards relocated to experimental islets in Greece produce a novel chemical calling card, according to new research from biologists in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St.

Hot time in the city: Urban lizards evolve heat tolerance
Faced with a gritty landscape of metal fences, concrete walls and asphalt pavement, city lizards in Puerto Rico rapidly and repeatedly evolved better tolerance for heat than their forest counterparts, according to new research from Washington University in St.

Detection dogs and DNA on the trail of endangered lizards
Detection dogs trained to sniff out the scat of an endangered lizard in California's San Joaquin Valley, combined with genetic species identification, could represent a new noninvasive sampling technique for lizard conservation worldwide.

Realistic robots get under Galápagos lizards' skin
Male lava lizards are sensitive to the timing of their opponents' responses during contest displays, with quicker responses being perceived as more aggressive, a study in Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology suggests.

Read More: Lizards News and Lizards Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.