The question of why animals are shaped the way they are has intrigued scientists for hundreds of years. Studies of ecological morphology (the relationship between an organism’s form, function, and environment) often bridge multiple disciplines including biomechanics, ecology, phylogenetics, and comparative methods. In this dissertation, I gathered data and tested hypotheses that considered the link between morphology and performance and the relationship between performance and ecology. I focused my research on the adhesive abilities of geckos. Geckos are an understudied, diverse group of lizards, well known for their adhesive toe pads. I propose that geckos are an excellent group to consider ecological morphology due to the breadth of morphological, performance, and ecological variation across species, the presence of many recent phylogenetic hypotheses detailing evolutionary relationships among gecko species, and the fascinating characteristics inherent in the gecko adhesive system. My first research chapter (Chapter 2) focused on the relationship between gecko setal morphology and performance. In this chapter I found that previously described mechanical models of setal performance can likely be applied to a broad range of gecko species, but these models may also be improved for better accuracy. My next chapter (Chapter 3) considered the diversity of adhesive performance across padded lizards. I found that anole lizards, Gekkonidae and Phyllodactylidae geckos, and Diplodactylidae geckos, representing three previously proposed independent origins of adhesive pads, likely exhibit different adhesive performance capabilities and different setal mechanics. In my last research chapter (Chapter 4), I evaluated correlations between gecko adhesive performance, limb morphology, and microhabitat use and found correlations that suggest unique ecomorphological iv relationships may be present in geckos. Overall, my results suggest geckos represent an excellent ecological morphology study system and highlight the need for broader studies considering gecko locomotion kinematics, setal mechanics, and habitat use in the context of ecological adaptation.
Hagey, Travis Jay, "Mechanics, Diversity, and Ecology of Gecko Adhesion" (2013). Biology. 3.