Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 33, Issue 6, pp 791–809 | Cite as

Close encounters of the urban kind: predators influence prey body size variation in an urban landscape

  • Zachary A. ChejanovskiEmail author
  • Jason J. Kolbe
Original Paper


Body size is a key trait linked to many aspects of an organism’s life history, physiology, and behavior. Variation in body size can thus have important fitness consequences across a broad range of ecological contexts. We utilized the variation in multiple abiotic and biotic factors found among urban habitats to test simultaneously their relative effects on body size variation in urban populations of brown anole lizards (Anolis sagrei). These factors represent major hypotheses regarding body size variation in ectotherms and other animal groups: temperature, food availability, conspecific abundance and predator abundance. We also performed a tethered intruder experiment to determine whether the attack behavior of predatory curly-tailed lizards (Leiocephalus carinatus) depends on the body size of their brown anole prey. Lastly, we conducted a common garden experiment to assess whether brown anole body size differences between sites with and without curly-tailed lizard predators are genetically based. Predator abundance was the primary predictor of brown anole body size for both males and females. No other hypotheses were consistently supported. Brown anole body size increased along with increasing predator abundance, and predator abundance was negatively related to body size variation. Additionally, predators approached larger brown anoles less often and at longer latencies compared to smaller ones. Finally, male brown anoles from sites with predators had faster growth rates compared to those from sites without predators under common conditions in the lab. Brown anole body size differences among populations may result from higher survival of larger lizards during predatory confrontations, and this trait is at least partially heritable in males. Therefore, our results suggest that curly-tailed lizard predators may be important agents of evolution by natural selection for brown anole populations in urban habitats. To further investigate the ecological and evolutionary consequences of predator–prey interactions in urban habitats, future research should focus on measuring predator-induced selection in these novel environments.


Anolis lizards Natural selection Predator–prey interactions Species interactions Common garden 



This research was funded by a Grant from the National Science Foundation (DEB-1354897) and funds from the University of Rhode Island. Protocols for use of vertebrate animals in this study were approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee at the University of Rhode Island (AN11–09-005). We would like to thank Tia Mitchell, Sozos Michaelides, Kevin Stochmal, Evan Carter and Katelyn Higgins for their help with the common garden study. Christopher Thawley provided important suggestions for our analysis of hatchling growth rates.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

10682_2019_10008_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2.4 mb)
Supplementary Materials: Figure S1 – Sites used in the body size variation study, and Figure S2 and Table S1 are a supplemental principal component analysis of the environmental variables measured at these sites. Tables S2 and S3 are the model results from the analysis of body size using square-transformed and non-transformed SVL values, respectively. (DOCX 2496 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of Rhode IslandKingstonUSA

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