Dependence on a human structure influences the extinction of a non-native lizard population after a major environmental change

Daniel A. Warner, Joshua M. Hall, Amélie Fargevieille, Austin C. Hulbert, Sarin Tiatragul, Jenna E. Pruett, Timothy S. Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human activity causes major changes in natural landscapes via introduction of non-native species, development on natural habitat, and alteration of local weather patterns. These factors contribute to global change and may interact to affect local populations of plants and animals. We studied a viable, non-native lizard population (Anolis sagrei) in southeast Alabama, USA that has depended upon thermal conditions inside a greenhouse nursery during the winter for at least 10 years. Using Capture-Mark-Recapture surveys, we compared population parameters and movement patterns of this introduced A. sagrei population to a native lizard population (Sceloporus undulatus) that also inhabits our study site. The population size of both species fluctuated over time, but that of A. sagrei was considerably larger than S. undulatus. Anolis sagrei was relatively philopatric and confined within the greenhouse and its immediate vicinity, whereas the S. undulatus population extended into the surrounding forest habitat. The thermal landscape within the greenhouse was substantially altered after the roof was removed due to winds from a tropical storm. Indeed, temperatures of all microhabitats commonly used by lizards frequently dropped below the critical thermal minimum for A. sagrei and below freezing during winter. Post-winter surveys revealed that no A. sagrei individuals survived, indicating that the temperature change in the greenhouse resulted in extinction. The native S. undulatus population, however, was still present after winter. Our study provides rare documentation of an extinction of an established introduced population and illustrates the role that human-made structures and natural weather events play in the process of biological invasion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalBiological Invasions
StateAccepted/In press - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Bill Dozier for access to his property during this study. Thanks to R. Brandt, A. DeSana, K. Murphy, P. Pearson, D. Douglas, and C. Guiffre for field assistance, and to I. Gross, K. Murphy, O. Schweikart, M. Welc, and M. Wolak for comments and discussion about this research. Thanks to R. Telemeco for providing the photo of S. undulatus. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation (DEB-1564563 to DAW). JMH acknowledges financial support from the Alabama Graduate Research Scholars Program funded through the Alabama Commission for Higher Education and administered by the Alabama EPSCoR. TSM acknowledges support from the National Science Foundation (DBI-1402202). Research was approved by the Auburn University Animal Care and Use Committee (protocol 2016–2905), and lizards were collected with permission from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (permit# 2017077362268680). This is publication #927 of the Auburn University Museum of Natural History.


  • Anolis sagrei
  • Cold tolerance
  • Dispersal
  • Greenhouse
  • Hurricane
  • Invasion biology
  • Sceloporus undulatus

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