Slow but tenacious : an analysis of running and gripping performance in chameleons
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
The journal of experimental biology. - London
, p. 1025-1030
University of Antwerp
Chameleons are highly specialized and mostly arboreal lizards characterized by a suite of derived characters. The grasping feet and tail are thought to be related to the arboreal lifestyle of chameleons, yet specializations for grasping are thought to exhibit a trade-off with running ability. Indeed, previous studies have demonstrated a trade-off between running and clinging performance, with faster species being poorer clingers. Here we investigate the presence of trade-offs by measuring running and grasping performance in four species of chameleon belonging to two different clades (Chamaeleo and Bradypodion). Within each clade we selected a largely terrestrial species and a more arboreal species to test whether morphology and performance are related to habitat use. Our results show that habitat drives the evolution of morphology and performance but that some of these effects are specific to each clade. Terrestrial species in both clades show poorer grasping performance than more arboreal species and have smaller hands. Moreover, hand size best predicts gripping performance, suggesting that habitat use drives the evolution of hand morphology through its effects on performance. Arboreal species also had longer tails and better tail gripping performance. No differences in sprint speed were observed between the two Chamaeleo species. Within Bradypodion, differences in sprint speed were significant after correcting for body size, yet the arboreal species were both better sprinters and had greater clinging strength. These results suggest that previously documented trade-offs may have been caused by differences between clades (i.e. a phylogenetic effect) rather than by design conflicts between running and gripping per se.