An experimental evaluation of foraging decisions in urban and natural forest populations of Anolis lizards

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Foraging decisions reflect a trade-off between the benefits of acquiring food and the costs of movement. Changes in the biotic and abiotic environment associated with urbanization can alter this trade-off and modify foraging decisions. We experimentally manipulated foraging opportunities for two Anolis lizard species – the brown anole (A. sagrei) in Florida and the crested anole (A. cristatellus) in Puerto Rico – to assess whether foraging behavior differs between habitats varying in their degree of urbanization. In both urban and natural forest habitats, we measured the latency of perched anoles to feed from an experimental feeding tray. We manipulated perch availability and predator presence, while also taking into account population (e.g., conspecific density) and individual-level factors (e.g., body temperature) to evaluate whether and how these contribute to between-habitat differences in foraging behavior. In both species, urban anoles had longer latencies to feed and lower overall response rates compared to lizards from forests. Urban anoles were also larger (i.e., snout-vent length and mass) in both species and urban A. sagrei were in better body condition than the natural forest population. We postulate that the observed patterns in foraging behavior are driven by differences in perceived predation risk, foraging motivation, or neophobia. Although we are unable to identify the mechanism(s) driving these differences, the substantial differences in urban versus forest anole foraging behavior emphasizes the importance of understanding how urbanization influences animal populations and their persistence in anthropogenically-modified environments.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Urban Ecosystems