Jonathan Losos and I have a preprint of a conceptual/review paper up on BioRxiv. It’s about the idea that Anolis lizards are territorial–we trace the historical path of research on this idea, asking how we anole researchers came to hold this idea and what the evidence for it actually looks like. If you’ve read about my fieldwork (and you can do so here!), you’ll know I believe that we currently *do not know* if territoriality is a good description of these lizards’ social lives. If you read this pre-print, you’ll find out *why* I think this.
This paper covers a lot of ground–we wade into the weeds of the definitions of “territoriality,” “site fidelity,” and “polygyny” (it’s not too painful, I promise!), we consider the consequences of sampling and analysis choices, and we pay attention to the fate of data and ideas. Though on the surface it looks like a paper about one type of lizard, we aim for it to come across as a paper about the scientific process as applied to animal biology.
I began working on what became this paper as a second year grad student. At the time, my obscenely ambitious plan was to review the evidence for Emlen and Oring’s (1977) hypothesis that resource distributions drive animal mating systems. Over the years I chiselled that plan down to something manageable–because the most persistent conclusion of this paper in all its iterations has been that we need to pay attention to organisms’ natural history, it made sense to restrict our review to the creatures we know best.
But this is exactly why feedback from folks who study a diversity of organisms would be incredibly useful to us! Is there any chance that research in your favourite organism has followed a similar trajectory? And, of course, if you study anoles, we most certainly want to know if you believe we’ve made a compelling case or not. Read the paper and tell us what you think, and thank you!