Aurelien Lowie, Elisa Gillet, Bieke Vanhooydonck, Duncan J. Irschick, Jonathan B. Losos, and Anthony Herrel
The ability of an animal to run fast has important consequences on its survival capacity and overall fitness. Previous studies have documented how variation in the morphology of the limbs is related to variation in locomotor performance. Although these studies have suggested direct relations between sprint speed and hindlimb morphology, few quantitative data exist. Consequently, it remains unclear whether selection acts in limb segment lengths, overall muscle mass or muscle architecture (e.g. muscle fiber length and cross-sectional area). Here, we investigate whether muscle architecture (mass, fiber length and physiological cross-sectional area), hindlimb segment dimensions, or both, explain variation in sprint speed across 14 species of Anolis lizards. Moreover, we test whether similar relationships exist between morphology and performance for both sexes, which may not be the case given the known differences in locomotor behavior and habitat use. Our results show that the main driver of sprint speed is the variation in femur length for both males and females. Our results further show sexual dimorphism in the traits studied and, moreover, show differences in the traits that predict maximal sprint speed in males and females. For example, snout vent length and overall muscle mass are also good predictors of sprint speed in males, whereas no relationships between muscle mass and sprint speed was observed in females. Only a few significant relationships were found between muscle architecture (fiber length, cross-sectional area) and sprint speed in male anoles, suggesting that overall muscles size, rather than muscle architecture, appears to be under selection.