If you're a green anole living on an island in Florida and your turf is invaded by a brown anole that puts you and your food supply at risk, what do you do? You adapt -- with mind-boggling evolutionary speed, apparently.
That's according to new research by a team of scientists that documented the green anole on islands in Florida making key changes to itself in as little as 15 years and 20 generations.
On initial contact with the invasive brown lizard, the home-team green lizards quickly began to perch themselves higher in trees. As generations passed, their feet evolved -- they grew bigger toe pads and supplied themselves with stickier scales. These changes meant the lizards were better able to grip smoother branches found higher in the trees.
"We did predict that we'd see a change, but the degree and quickness with which they evolved was surprising," said Yoel Stuart, the study's lead author, in a release.
Stuart, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Integrative Biology at The University of Texas at Austin, compared the lizards' feat to what would be an equally remarkable change in humans. "If human height were evolving as fast as these lizards' toes, the height of an average American man would increase from about 5 foot 9 inches today to about 6 foot 4 inches within 20 generations - an increase that would make the average U.S. male the height of an NBA shooting guard."