The quick and the fast: the evolution of acceleration capacity in Anolis lizards

Evolution. 2006 Oct;60(10):2137-47.


Although of prime ecological relevance, acceleration capacity is a poorly understood locomotor performance trait in terrestrial vertebrates. No empirical data exist on which design characteristics determine acceleration capacity among species and whether these design traits influence other aspects of locomotor performance. In this study we explore how acceleration capacity and sprint speed have evolved in Anolis lizards. We investigate whether the same or different morphological traits (i.e., limb dimensions and muscle mass) correlate with both locomotor traits. Within our sample of Anolis lizards, relative sprint speed and acceleration capacity coevolved. However, whereas the variation in relative acceleration capacity is primarily explained by the variation in relative knee extensor muscle mass, the variation in relative sprint speed is correlated to the variation in relative femur, tibia, and metatarsus length as well as knee extensor muscle mass. The fact that the design features required to excel in either performance trait partly overlap might explain the positive correlation between the variation in relative sprint speed and acceleration capacity. Furthermore, our data show how similar levels of sprint performance can be achieved through different morphological traits (limb segment lengths and muscle mass) suggesting that redundant mapping has potentially played a role in mitigating trade-offs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acceleration*
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Body Size
  • Lizards / anatomy & histology
  • Lizards / physiology*
  • Male
  • Somatotypes