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Title: Going Out on a Limb: How Investigation of the Anoline Adhesive System Can Enhance Our Understanding of Fibrillar Adhesion

The remarkable ability of geckos to adhere to a wide-variety of surfaces has served as an inspiration for hundreds of studies spanning the disciplines of biomechanics, functional morphology, ecology, evolution, materials science, chemistry, and physics. The multifunctional properties (e.g., self-cleaning, controlled releasability, reversibility) and adhesive performance of the gekkotan adhesive system have motivated researchers to design and fabricate gecko-inspired synthetic adhesives of various materials and properties. However, many challenges remain in our attempts to replicate the properties and performance of this complex, hierarchical fibrillar adhesive system, stemming from fundamental, but unanswered, questions about how fibrillar adhesion operates. Such questions involve the role of fibril morphology in adhesive performance and how the gekkotan adhesive apparatus is utilized in nature. Similar fibrillar adhesive systems have, however, evolved independently in two other lineages of lizards (anoles and skinks) and potentially provide alternate avenues for addressing these fundamental questions. Anoles are the most promising group because they have been the subject of intensive ecological and evolutionary study for several decades, are highly speciose, and indeed are advocated as squamate model organisms. Surprisingly, however, comparatively little is known about the morphology, performance, and properties of their convergently-evolved adhesive arrays. Although many researchers consider the more » performance of the adhesive system of Anolis lizards to be less accomplished than its gekkotan counterpart, we argue here that Anolis lizards are prime candidates for exploring the fundamentals of fibrillar adhesion. Studying the less complex morphology of the anoline adhesive system has the potential to enhance our understanding of fibril morphology and its relationship to the multifunctional performance of fibrillar adhesive systems. Furthermore, the abundance of existing data on the ecology and evolution of anoles provides an excellent framework for testing hypotheses about the influence of habitat microstructure on the performance, behavior, and evolution of lizards with subdigital adhesive pads.

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Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Integrative and Comparative Biology
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
p. 61-69
Oxford University Press
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  1. Abstract

    The subdigital adhesive pads of Caribbean Anolis lizards are considered to be a key innovation that permits occupation of novel ecological niches. Although previous work has demonstrated that subdigital pad morphology and performance vary with habitat use, such investigations have only considered the macroscale aspects of these structures (e.g. pad area). The morphological agents of attachment, however, are arrays of hair-like fibres (setae) that terminate in an expanded tip (spatula) and have not been examined in a similar manner. Here we examine the setal morphology and setal field configuration of ecologically distinct species of the monophyletic Jamaican Anolis radiation from a functional and ecological perspective. We find that anoles occupying the highest perches possess greater setal densities and smaller spatulae than those exploiting lower perches. This finding is consistent with the concept of contact splitting, whereby subdivision of an adhesive area into smaller and more densely packed fibres results in an increase in adhesive performance. Micromorphological evidence also suggests that the biomechanics of adhesive locomotion may vary between Anolis ecomorphs. Our findings indicate that, in a similar fashion to macroscale features of the subdigital pad, its microstructure may vary in relation to performance and habitat use in Caribbean Anolis.

  2. Synopsis

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