Dewlaps in the wind: unexpected behavioural cascades from clean energy (#527)
Renewable sources of energy are globally promoted as safe alternatives to fossil fuels for mitigating the effects of climate change. As one of the highest wind energy producers in the world, India is rapidly moving towards a path of greater clean energy. But is wind energy ecologically benign? Although some adverse ecological effects of wind turbines are well documented (e.g. collision mortality in birds and bats), I will discuss some less obvious and unexpected effects. Based on our work in the northern Western Ghats (India), we're discovering that fan throated lizards (Sitana ponticeriana) are dramatically affected by wind turbines. Sitana ponticeriana are among the most colourful lizard species in India and exhibit elaborate behaviours including bipedalism. I’ll show how the presence of wind turbines alters predation risk for this species, which in turn influences the density of lizards, as well as their morphology, behaviour and physiology. Predator release in wind turbine areas are not only affecting antipredator responses and stress levels, but also social behaviours and dewlap colour. Given the short history of wind farms in the study area, and the fact that fan throated lizards are the main mesopredator in the community, such changes in the survival and social strategies of this species can have major ecological and evolutionary consequences.