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  #1  
Old 01-25-2008, 09:07 PM
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Life expectancy

I thought this might warrant its own thread as it is more of a general topic about life expectancy in chameleons and how their life history strategies play into it.

Earlier this month I attended a conference for the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biologists (SICB). One of the talks I attended I found to be particularly interesting and thought provoking and I thought a few people on this forum would have appreciated it. It was a talk by Kris Karsten on some of the research he's done in Madagascar titled "Living life like there is no tomorrow: growth, sex, and death in a remarkable chameleon in Madagascar". In the talk, he discussed his observations over a couple years on Furcifer labordi. His observations indicate that this species seems to have the shortest natural life span of any known tetrapod (any vertebrate having or evolutionarily ever having had four limbs). His research found that this species has a natural post-hatching life span of 4-5 months in which they grow to full adult size from hatching from the egg, reproduce and deposit eggs for the next generation having reached sexual maturity in less then two months. During peak growth rates, he recorded that males can increase in mass by as much as 4% per day and in body size by 2% per day, while females increased in mass by as much as 2% per day and in body size by 2% per day. There then seems to be a complete cohort die off in the population at the onset of the dry season and the only living individuals of the species are the developing eggs which hatch in 8-9 months. In effect, this species spends approximately 75% of its life cycle in the egg with no cohort carry over between generations. Talk about living to reproduce and the success of your species depending on it!

On the other side of the spectrum in chameleons, it seems we have species like Calumma parsonii which are reported to be capable of living upwards of 20 years. These species are relatively slow growing and get extremely large while living a generally slower life. Rather then complete dependence on a single reproductive event to pass on their genes, species such as this reproduce over a number of years repeatedly. The life history strategies of these two species couldn't be more different!

When Furcifer lateralis come in from Madagascar, it seems that ever female, unless a very young animal, is gravid. People who have worked with them can tell you that once they become gravid, it seems like they pump out eggs constantly. The species is also considered to typically be on the shorter end of the life expectancy spectrum and seems to be of the "living to reproduce" strategy. On the other side, species like Chamaeleo (Trioceros) deremensis have arguably been referred to as seasonal breeders that take a couple years to mature and need specific conditions to reproduce. They'd appear to represent the other side of the reproductive strategy spectrum.

More then anything this thread is just me thinking out loud (so-to-speak) about my amazement with this family. There is such a diverse array of species, life history strategies, ecological niche specification, morphological variations and extreme examples of specialization and for a family which is generally regarded as so fragile, how have they managed to evolve to be so incredibly diverse and specialized in ways and extents that few or no other tetrapods have succeeded?

Chris
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  #2  
Old 01-25-2008, 09:53 PM
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Wow, thanks for sharing that. No wonder F. labordi never did well long-term in captivity. Just to make sure I understand correctly, they were dieing of "old age" rather than something in the environment making life impossible (prolonged drought, famine, etc)?

Will and I were just discussing the F. labordi rape scene, as I like to call it, in the CIN dvd. That somewhat extreme interaction makes a lot more sense now. I never would've thought I was looking at a couple of 4 month old lizards though. Fascinating. Is anything published or in the works to be?
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Old 01-25-2008, 10:04 PM
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This topic is very fascinating to me, and leads me to the question of whether or not we can have some level of control in a captive environment.
Lynda is keeping female veileds to and past their 7th year without ever producing an egg by controlling temperature, diet and exposure to males
(keeping them cooler, not over feeding and keeping them visually separated from their counterparts).
On the flip side we have females that are in breeding projects or are "well loved" pets, getting very warm basking areas and lots and lots of food producing multiple clutches per year and living to be only 2 or maybe 3 years old.
Okay ... that was me thinking out loud
And I may not be done.

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Old 01-25-2008, 11:14 PM
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I am not sure how old this is, but here is a link. It may or may not be based on his studies.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Furcifer_labordi
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Old 06-27-2008, 09:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kent67 View Post
Is anything published or in the works to be?
Yes, it will be published next week, sometime after June 30 in PNAS.
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Old 06-27-2008, 10:40 AM
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I wonder if they would live longer if kept on a "diet" and a little cooler too...or would they be more like the pardalis, where the diet doesn't prevent the cycling to produce eggs?
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Old 06-27-2008, 12:00 PM
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I wouldn't be surprised of we could extent the life expectancy of any animal beyond what it would be in nature by carefully controlling their environment, however the question then becomes if it would be right to do so.

I once read a study about guppies that showed that a male guppy kept in a communal tank with other males and females will live for about 2 -3 years, while one kept in complete isolation can live as long as 7 years. Question is - which one lived a more fullfilling life?

If you could live for a 150 years by spending the rest of your days is a carefully controlled laboratory, would you want to?

Just to add some more food for thought
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Old 06-27-2008, 12:20 PM
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Always interesting to hear your thoughts when you think out loud. We have hobbyists and scientists, but few that are both.

Life expectancy seems to be very similar in other groups of lizards - phelsuma, for instance, all live ridiculously long lives. Even the tiny little klemmeri live over 20 years. I have some female standigi that we've owned for 15 years, and were imported as large adults (and they're STILL breeding).

Chameleons are indeed unique in their varied niches and lifespans. I wonder if this is indicative of an early split from other saurians.

I haven't read much on the evolutionary history of lifspan. Could be one of those adaptations that's relativly quick in - especially when we have animals adapting to constantly changing climates and ecosystems.
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Old 06-27-2008, 12:28 PM
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It has not been my goal to get my animals to just live long. I do not believe there's anything immoral with creating an artificial environment in order to do that. Tot he contrary, such experimentation, like what kinyonga has done, helps us better understand the physiology of these animals. I have had all sorts of ideas as to how to get female veileds to live longer, but I'm not incorperating any controls.

I limit food and temps, but it's for a "balance" between long life and lots of eggs.

One small clutch a year, I can say, leads to a very long life. 5 years plus.
Two clutches a year, and you're probably not going to get many of them beyond 4 years.
A good number of triple-clutchers will be dead in 2 years.

With deremensis, I found that slow reproduction is pretty much hard-wired, unlike veileds. feed them more and keep them warm, they don't (always) lay more eggs more often, they tend to get fat and die.

Very interesting differences.

Deremensis and parsonii, though not closely related as far as chameleons are concerned, are very similar in behavior and appearance. Some of them even have those "parsonii lines" and yellow side dot - not to mention the highly photo-sensitive skin. evolution is so much fun.
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Old 06-27-2008, 01:05 PM
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how have they managed to evolve to be so incredibly diverse and specialized in ways and extents that few or no other tetrapods have succeeded?

this is the last sentence of the original post.

who says that they ever evolved. might it be that they were all created to match their environment and maby all created to do exactly what they do. every chameleon out there is made to do what it does, and made for its environment. some live longer than others some dont. some grow fast and reproduce and others dont. some live in hot humid climates others cant. people and even scientist use the species word on chameleons too much. they are all chameleons just different KINDS of chameleons not species because when you take it all away you still have a chameleon, one with horns and one that dont, but its still a chameleon. the question is not how they all evolved, i have never seen anything evolve, but how all life is created for its specefic environment and its specific purpose. now with that said if an animal is in captivity of corse someone can make them lay more eggs or live longer than normal because its in a controlled enviroment. thats no news. take all things that affect and shorten its life in the wild and do away with it all and now you have an animal that normally lives 2 years now living 6 or more years and re-producing like crazy.

(p.s. im not trying to get people mad at me i just dont like the word evolve and how people/scientist try to put a scientific explination on every single thing out there on as to why it is.)

just my humble opinion.
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Last edited by Jeremy l; 06-27-2008 at 01:23 PM.
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