No Cover Image

Lizards: Windows to the Evolution of Diversity

ERIC R. PIANKA
LAURIE J. VITT
WITH A FOREWORD BY HARRY W. GREENE
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: 1
Pages: 346
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pp0q8
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Lizards
    Book Description:

    From tiny to gigantic, from drab to remarkably beautiful, from harmless to venomous, lizards are spectacular products of natural selection. This book, lavishly illustrated with color photographs, is the first comprehensive reference on lizards around the world. Accessible, scientifically up-to-date, and written with contagious enthusiasm for the subject,Lizards: Windows to the Evolution of Diversitycovers species evolution, diversity, ecology, and biology. Eric R. Pianka and Laurie J. Vitt have studied and photographed members of almost all lizard families worldwide, and they bring to the book a deep knowledge based on extensive firsthand experience with the animals in their natural habitats. Part One explores lizard lifestyles, answering such questions as why lizards are active when they are, why they behave as they do, how they avoid predators, why they eat what they eat, and how they reproduce and socialize. In Part Two the authors take us on a fascinating tour of the world's manifold lizard species, beginning with iguanians, an evolutionary group that includes some of the most bizarre lizards, the true chameleons of Africa and Madagascar. We also meet the glass lizard, able to break its tail into many highly motile pieces to distract a predator from its body; lizards that can run across water; and limbless lizards, such as snakes. Part Three gives an unprecedented global view of evolutionary trends that have shaped present-day lizard communities and considers the impact of humans on their future. A definitive resource containing many entertaining anecdotes, this magnificent book opens a new window to the natural world and the evolution of life on earth.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93991-2
    Subjects: Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-v)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vi-viii)
  3. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. FOREWORD
    (pp. xi-xii)
    HARRY W. GREENE

    Lizards: Windows to the Evolution of Diversityis the fifth volume in the University of California Press series on organisms and environments. Our unifying themes are the diversity of plants and animals, the ways in which they interact with each other and with their surroundings, and the broader implications of those relationships for science and society. We seek books that promote unusual, even unexpected connections among seemingly disparate topics, and we want to encourage projects that are special by virtue of the unique perspectives and talents of their authors. Arizona grasslands, Bornean treeshrews, Seri ethnoherpetology, the amphibians and reptiles of...

  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. INTRODUCTION: THE LOGIC OF BIOLOGY
    (pp. 1-7)

    In 1993, while assembling the third symposium volume on lizard ecology (Vitt and Pianka 1994), we resolved one day to write a semipopular book on lizards in a coffee table format. A few years later, publication of the elegant bookSnakes: The Evolution of Mystery in Nature(Greene 1997) prompted us to proposeLizards: Windows to the Evolution of Diversityas a companion volume to the University of California Press. Snakes are merely one group of very specialized lizards, and other lizards certainly deserve equal consideration. Lizards, moreover, are much more diverse than snakes and can be exploited to explain...

  7. Part One LIZARD LIFESTYLES
    • CHAPTER 1 EVOLUTIONARY HISTORY AND PHYLOGENY
      (pp. 11-18)

      Knowing exactly which species one is referring to is critical to any discussion of the evolution and natural history of lizards. Common names—“blue-belly,” for example—though often evocative, are approximate, even potentially confusing, since they could apply to many different species. Such inaccuracy is easily resolved by the system that scientists use to name species, a nomenclature (developed by the Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus [1707–78], and therefore known as the Linnean system) that has been standardized by an international commission.

      According to this system, each species has a unique scientific name, derived from Greek or Latin and usually...

    • CHAPTER 2 GETTING AROUND IN A COMPLEX WORLD
      (pp. 19-40)

      From a lizard’s perspective, the world is a complex set of landscapes. Physical structure of the environment is one landscape and includes trees, shrubs, rocks, and the consistency of ground or water. Lizards perform their daily activities within constraints of the particular habitat where they live. Moreover, over evolutionary time this structure has had a lasting impact on morphology of individual species, resulting in the diversity we see today. Depending on morphology and circumstances, lizards run, jump, swim, slither, burrow, and even glide. The shapes of their bodies, tails, limbs, and heads as well as some of their spectacular ornamentation...

    • CHAPTER 3 LIZARDS AS PREDATORS
      (pp. 41-62)

      Although a few lizards are herbivorous, most feed on other animals and swallow them whole. Insectivorous lizards attack dozens if not hundreds of insects each day, and no doubt from the perspective of an insect these are spectacular events. To place such an event in human perspective, consider the Komodo monitor (also called the Komodo dragon), the only extant lizard large enough to kill and devour humans. To paraphrase Walter Auffenberg (1981): On the tropical island of Flores, a few hundred kilometers north of Australia, a large male Komodo

      monitor lizard waited, hidden in tall grass alongside a game trail....

    • CHAPTER 4 ESCAPING PREDATORS
      (pp. 63-84)

      Evolutionary interactions between lizards and their predators can be thought of as a never-ending arms race. Because being faster and more wary should result in higher survival rates than being slow and less wary, natural selection has led to traits that enable successful escape. On the opposing side, because ability to capture meaty prey such as lizards allows energy to be converted into offspring faster, selection has led to ever more successful predators. If lizards as prey cannot stay ahead in this “race,” they go extinct.

      Selection is strong on prey because failing to escape is certain death: there is...

    • CHAPTER 5 SOCIAL BEHAVIOR
      (pp. 85-106)

      Anyone who has visited Caribbean islands or southern Florida has witnessed the seemingly ridiculous antics of maleAnolislizards as they bob their heads and expand and contract their colorful and exaggerated dewlaps. These displays establish dominance among peers and attract attention of potential mates. From an evolutionary perspective, any behavior that results in more mating opportunities, and consequently production of more offspring, is at a selective advantage, and if a genetic basis to such a behavior exists, that behavior will be passed on at a greater rate than less successful behaviors. For an individual male, each mating opportunity can...

    • CHAPTER 6 REPRODUCTION AND LIFE HISTORY
      (pp. 107-122)

      People often ask questions like “Why am I here?” and “What is the purpose of my life?” Biologists have a simple answer: all life forms exist to perpetuate their genes in future gene pools. The value of an organism lies solely in its contribution to future generations. Reproduction has primacy. Although we might wish that natural selection favor beauty, brains, or brawn, it need not. If ugly, dumb, weak individuals leave behind more babies, in time their genes will dominate the gene pool. Of course, “reproduction” in an evolutionary sense is much more complex than two individuals combining their genes...

    • CHAPTER 7 REFLECTIONS OF THE REAL WORLD
      (pp. 123-139)

      “Ecology” and “environment” are terms often misused and abused by politicians and other anthropocentric advertisers, who tend to reduce them to “clean air, clean water, no beer cans, and no pollution.” Ecology extends far beyond the human sphere, however: it is nothing less than the study of all interactions between organisms and their environments. “Environment” includes everything that impinges on a particular organism, both abiotic (e.g., sunshine, wind, rain) and biotic (prey, competitors, parasites, predators). Any organism’s environment is exceedingly complex and multidimensional. Indeed, entire lifetimes could be spent studying the ecology of a single species!

      Ecologists are not very...

  8. Part Two LIZARD DIVERSITY
    • CHAPTER 8 IGUANIANS
      (pp. 143-170)

      Iguania is the sister taxon to all other lizards and contains three families: Iguanidae, Agamidae, and Chamaeleonidae. Lizards with dorsal crests, colorful dewlaps, and seemingly endless sets of push-ups or head bobs—these are what come to mind when one thinks of iguanians. Morphological, ecological, and behavioral diversification is strikingly similar between iguanids (primarily New World) and agamids (strictly Old World), with numerous examples of convergent evolution. Chameleons conjure up a somewhat different image, largely because of their zygodactylous toes; coiled, prehensile tails; and turretlike eyes. Nevertheless, chameleons are adorned with often striking morphological ornamentation, and their behavioral antics are...

    • CHAPTER 9 FROM GECKOS TO BLIND LIZARDS
      (pp. 171-192)

      Taken together, geckos, flap-footed lizards, worm lizards, and blind lizards are among the most remarkable of all lizards. Geckos stand out because of their often striking colors, soft skin, and adhesive toe pads, which allow them to scale smooth vertical surfaces or even walk upside down. Some Australian flap-footed lizards (Pygopodidae) are snakelike, with only tiny remnants of hind limbs (hence the common name), and one genus,Lialis, swallows its prey—other lizards—whole, similar to snakes. Some flap-foots are fossorial, living a subterranean existence. Worm lizards (sometimes called ringed lizards) are so strange and nonlizardlike that they must be...

    • CHAPTER 10 FROM RACERUNNERS TO NIGHT LIZARDS
      (pp. 193-210)

      In this chapter we introduce the highly active teiids and lacertids, the diminutive gymnophthalmids, and the secretive, long-lived xantusiids. Teiids, lacertids, and gymnophthalmids are in constant motion, maintaining a distance between themselves and other creatures—including humans—and frequently looking back to keep tabs on what could, after all, be a potential predator. Any sudden move by an observer, and the lizard darts off; although it immediately initiates foraging behavior again, its vigilance never ceases. These are the lizards that dominate terrestrial habitats in the New World and much of the Old World (excluding Australia). Most of these lizards live...

    • CHAPTER 11 SKINKS
      (pp. 211-226)

      Skinks are the largest lizard family, with some 120 genera and about 1,400 species described so far (and many more remaining to be described). Probably monophyletic, they exemplify diversity in all aspects of their biology. Terrestrial, arboreal, fossorial, and semiaquatic species are known, and they have diversified in all types of environments, from Australian and African deserts to Amazonian lowlands, from temperate forests and cool montane habitats to African savannas and Brazilian cerrado. Size varies from tiny to large, and morphology varies from short and robust with strong, well-developed limbs to elongate and fragile with tiny limbs or none at...

    • CHAPTER 12 FROM GIRDLED LIZARDS TO KNOB-SCALED LIZARDS
      (pp. 227-238)

      Like skinks, girdled lizards (Cordylidae), African plated lizards (Gerrhosauridae), alligator lizards (Anguidae), and knob-scaled lizards (Xenosauridae) have some of their body scales underlain by osteoderms, and their foraging behavior is similar. Cordylids that have been studied (Platysaurus, Cordylus, andPseudocordylus) are sit-and-wait foragers; most maintain territories (Cooper et al. 1997; Whiting 1999), an exception being the snakelike cordylidChaemasaura. Gerrhosaurids and anguids move about while foraging but at such a slow rate that their behavior is often referred to as “cruising” rather than “wide or active foraging.” Girdled lizards and African plated lizards as a group are quite distant evolutionarily...

    • CHAPTER 13 MONSTERS AND DRAGONS OF THE LIZARD WORLD
      (pp. 239-253)

      As a group, beaded lizards, earless monitors, and monitors cannot be mistaken for any other lizards. All are elongate with extended necks and walk along at a slow pace, swaying their heads and bodies from side to side and flicking their long, forked tongues in and out like snakes. Their gait, compared with that of other lizards, seems almost mammal-like, and they appear to progress with a well-founded sense of confidence. Some are large, and some are venomous; a gigantic fossil monitor probably preyed on Australian aboriginal humans. Stories of fire-breathing dragons no doubt had their origins with these lizards....

  9. Part Three SYNTHESIS
    • CHAPTER 14 HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
      (pp. 257-280)

      Taken in its entirety, the evolutionary history of lizards is among the most fascinating examples of natural selection in action among vertebrates. Key evolutionary innovations caused several explosive adaptive radiations leading to today’s lizard and snake fauna. It began with lizardlike ancestors, the lepidosaurians, giving rise to rhynchocephalians, which lacked a male sex organ but had many features that led to the success of squamates. Basic lizard morphology was already established, with well-developed optic systems for detecting moving prey; prey capture by tongue prehension; and rudiments of a potentially powerful chemosensory system including taste, olfaction, and vomerolfaction.

      At the same...

    • CHAPTER 15 LIZARDS AND HUMANS
      (pp. 281-298)

      Lizards command our attention: appealing to look at, they appear as motifs for all sorts of products and businesses, from bicycles to database programs to insurance companies to climbing walls to graphic design firms. Perhaps more important, they are model organisms for ecological and evolutionary studies and, as such, can teach us volumes about the living world that surrounds us. Without lizards, our lives would be sadly impoverished. Human fascination with lizards has a long history. Certainly nearly every child is mesmerized when offered the opportunity to handle his or her first lizard. Quality time spent with an individual lizard...

  10. APPENDIX: Taxonomic summary of lizard genera of the world (mostly from Zug et al. 2001)
    (pp. 299-302)
  11. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 303-306)
  12. REFERENCES
    (pp. 307-324)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 325-333)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 334-334)