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Meeting Abstract

S10-2   09:00 - 09:30  Anolis ecomorph biomechanics across arboreal environments: What can machine learning tell us about behavioral plasticity in lizards? Foster, KL*; Selvitella, AM; Ball State University; Purdue University Fort Wayne

Arboreal animals must learn to modulate their movements to overcome the challenges posed by the complexity of their heterogeneous environment, reduce performance failure, and survive. Anolis lizards are remarkable in the apparent ease with which they conquer this heterogeneity. Significant progress has been made towards understanding the impact of substrate structure on the behavioral plasticity of arboreal species, but it is unclear whether the same strategies employed to shift between substrates can be transferred to new situations. Is the kinematic shift between broad and narrow perches achieved in a similar way on different inclines? Do all species or ecomporphs make similar adjustments? Previous studies have found that fore- and hind limb kinematics tend to shift to favor increasing stability, particularly on narrow substrates, but with traditional, descriptive, statistical tools, we are not effective in answering questions centering around the transferability of these locomotor strategies. Our approach is to leverage machine learning methods (e.g. transfer learning with explainable models) to analyze 3D limb kinematics of 6 Puerto Rican Anolis species running on 6 surfaces (2 perch diameters x 3 inclines). By comparing the prediction accuracies of models trained on specific surface conditions/ecomorphs and tested on new conditions/ecomorphs, we can gain insight into which locomotor strategies are universally useful, and thus broadly transferred to new conditions in all species, and which strategies are unique to particular conditions/ecomorphs. This work is an example of how modern statistical methodology can provide an interesting perspective on new biological questions, such as on the role and nuances of behavioral plasticity and the key behaviors that help shape the versatility and rapid evolution of Anolis ecomorphs.