Professor of Biological Sciences
PhD, 2000 Washington University
Our research is broadly classified into three categories: animal communication, behavioral drive, and axes of divergence.
Research descriptionThe main focus of the Leal Lab is on behavioral and evolutionary ecology, with a particular interest in lizards. We are primarily interested in elucidating the mechanisms shaping the evolution of behavioral traits and the possible role of behavior in promoting species diversity. To achieve these goals, we take a diversity of approaches integrating behavioral, ecological, neurophysiological, and physiological studies within an evolutionary framework. Whenever possible, our research combines laboratory and field studies. Currently, our research focuses on the evolutionary radiation of West Indian anoles.
Lapiedra, O., Schoener, T.W., Leal, M., Losos, J.B., Kolbe, J.J. Predator-driven natural selection on risk-taking behavior in anole lizards (2018) Science, 360 (6392), pp. 1017-1020. DOI: 10.1126/science.aap9289
Schoener, T.W., Kolbe, J.J., Leal, M., Losos, J.B., Spiller, D.A. A multigenerational field experiment on eco-evolutionary dynamics of the influential lizard anolis sagrei: A mid-term report (2017) Copeia, 105 (3), pp. 543-549.
Gunderson AR, Leal M: A conceptual framework for understanding thermal constraints on ectotherm activity with implications for predicting responses to global change. Ecology Letters 2016, 19(2):111-120.
Fleishman, L.J., Ogas, B., Steinberg, D., Leal, M. Why do Anolis dewlaps glow? An analysis of a translucent visual signal (2016) Functional Ecology, 30 (3), pp. 345-355.
Steinberg, D.S., Leal, M. Visual motion detection and habitat preference in Anolis lizards (2016) Journal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology, 202 (11), pp. 783-790.
Gunderson, A.R., Leal, M., 2015. Patterns of thermal constraint on ectotherm activity. American Naturalist, 2015, 185:653-664.
Powell, B. J., and M. Leal. 2014. Brain organization and habitat complexity in Anolis lizards. Brain, Behavior and Evolution 2014, 84:8-18 (DOI:10.1159/000362197)
Steinberg, D. S., J. B. Losos, T. W. Schoener, D. A. Spiller, J. J. Kolbe and M. Leal. 2014. Predation-associated modulation of movement-based signals by a Bahamian lizard. Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences 2014, 111: 9187-9192, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1407190111
Jezkova, T., M. Leal and J. A. Rodríguez-Robles. 2013 Genetic dirft or natural selection? Hybridization and asymmetric mitochondrial introgression in two Caribbean lizards (Anolis pulchellus and Anolis krugi). Journal of Evolutionary Bilogy 26 online version
Steinberg, D. S. and M. Leal. 2013. Sensory system properties predict signal modulation in a tropical lizard. Animal Behavior 85:6623-629
Leal, M. and A.R. Gunderson. 2012. Rapid Change in the Thermal Tolerance of a Tropical Lizard. The American Naturalist 180: 815-822.
Powell, B.J. and M. Leal. 2012. Brain Evolution across the Puerto Rican Anole Radiation. Brain, Behavior and Evolution 80:170-180.
Gunderson, A.R. and M. Leal. 2012. Geographic variation in vulnerability to climate warming in a tropical Caribbean lizard. Functional Ecology 26:783-793.
Kolbe, J. J., M. Leal, T. W. Schoener, D. A. Spiller, and J. B. Losos. 2012. Founder Effects Persist Despite Adaptive Differentiation: A Replicated Field Experiment in Lizards. Science 335: 1086-1089.
Leal M. and B. J. Powell. 2012. On the flexibility of lizard's cognition: a response to Vasconcelos et al. Biology Letters 8: 44-45.
Leal M. and B. J. Powell. 2012. Behavioural flexibility and problem solving in a tropical lizard. Biology Letters 8: 28-30.
Gunderson, A. R., J. Siegel, and M. Leal. 2011. Tests of the contribution of acclimation to geographic variation in water loss rates of the West Indian lizard Anolis cristatellus. Journal of Comparative Physiology B 181: 965-972.
Rodríguez-Robles, J. A., T. Jezkova, and M. Leal. 2010. Climatic stability and genetic divergence in the tropical insular lizard Anolis krugi, the Puerto Rican 'Lagartijo Jardinero de la Montaña." Molecular Ecology 19: 1860-1876.
Fleishman, L. J., M. Leal, and M. H. Persons. 2009. Habitat light and dewlap color diversity in four species of Puerto Rican anoline lizards. Journal of Comparative Physiology A 195: 1043-1060.
Jezkova, T., M. Leal and J. A. Rodríguez-Robles. 2009 Living together but remaining apart: comparative phylogeography of Anolis poncesis and A. cooki, two lizards endemic to the aridlands of Puerto Rico. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 96: 617-643.
Leonhardt, S. D., J. Tung, J. B. Camden, M. Leal, and C. M. Drea. 2008. Seeing red: behavioral evidence of trichromatic color vision in strepsirrhine primates. Behavioral Ecology 20: 1-12.
Rodríguez-Robles, J. A., T. Jezkova, and M. Leal. 2008. Genetic structuring in the threatened “Lagartijo del Bosque Seco” (Anolis cooki) from Puerto Rico. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 46: 503-514.
Johnson, M. A., M. Leal, L. Rodríguez-Schettino, A. Chamizo Lara, L. J. Revell, and J. B. Losos. 2008. A phylogenetic perspective on foraging mode evolution and habitat use in West Indian Anolis lizards. Animal Behaviour 75: 555-563.
Fleishman, L. J., M. Leal and J. Sheehan 2006. Illumination geometry, detector position and objective determination of animal signal colours in natural light. Animal Behaviour 71: 463-474.
Rodríguez-Robles, J. A., M. Leal and J. B. Losos. 2005 Habitat selection by the Puerto Rican Yellow-chinned anole, Anolis gundlachi. Canadian Journal of Zoology 83: 983-988.
Leal, M., and L. J. Fleishman. 2004. Differences in visual signal design and detectability between allopatric populations of Anolis lizards. American Naturalist 163: 26-39.
Losos, J. B., M. Leal, R. E. Glor, K. deQueiroz, P. E. Hertz, L. Rodríguez-Schettino, A. Chamizo-Lara, T. R. Jackman, and A. Larson. 2003. Niche lability in the evolution of a Caribbean lizard community. Nature 423: 542-545.
Fuller, R. C., L. F. Fleishman, M. Leal, J. Travis, and E. R. Loew. 2003. Intraspecific variation in retinal cone distribution in bluefin killifish, Lucania goodei. Journal of Comparative Physiology A 189:609-616.
Leal, M., A. K. Knox, and J. B. Losos. 2002. Lack of convergence in aquatic Anolis lizards. Evolution 56: 785-791.
Leal, M., and L. J. Fleishman. 2002 Evidence for habitat partitioning based on adapation to environmental light in a pair of sympatric lizard species. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B 269: 351-359.
Leal, M., and J. B. Losos. 2000 Behavior and ecology of the Cuban “Chipojo Bobos” Chamaeleolis barbatus and C. porcus. Journal of Herpetology 32: 318-322.
Torres, J., R. Thomas, M. Leal, and T. Gush. 2000 Ant and termite predation by the tropical blindsnake Typhlops platycephalus. Insectes Sociaux 47:1-6.
Leal, M. 1999. Honest signalling during prey-predator interactions in the lizard Anolis cristatellus. Animal Behaviour 58:521-526.
Leal, M., J. A. Rodríguez-Robles, and J. B. Losos. 1998. An experimental study of interspecific interactions between two Puerto Rican Anolis lizards. Oecologia 117:273-278.
Leal, M., and J. A. Rodríguez-Robles. 1997. Signalling displays during predator-prey interactions in a Puerto Rican anole, Anolis cristatellus. Animal Behaviour 54:1147-1154.
Leal, M., and J. A. Rodríguez-Robles. 1997. Antipredator responses of the Puerto Rican giant anole, Anolis cuvieri (Sauria: Polychrotidae). Biotropica 29:372-375.
Leal, M., and J. A. Rodríguez-Robles. 1995. Antipredator responses of Anolis cristatellus (Sauria: Polychrotidae). Copeia 95: 155-161.
Leal, M., and R. Thomas. 1994. Notes on the feeding behavior and the exhibit of caudal luring by juvenile Alsophis portoricensis (Serpentes: Colubridae). Journal of Herpetology 28: 126-128.
Rodríguez-Robles, J. A., and M. Leal. 1993. ALSOPHIS PORTORICENSIS (Puerto Rican Racer). DIET. Herpetological Review 24: 150-151.
Fleishman, L. J., E. R. Loew, and M. Leal. 1993. Ultraviolet vision in lizards. Nature 365: 397.
Rodríguez-Robles, J. A., and M. Leal. 1993. Effects of prey type on the feeding behavior of Alsophis portoricensis (Serpentes: Colubridae). Journal of Herpetology 27: 163-168.
Thomas, R., and M. Leal. 1993. Feeding envenomation by Arrhyton exigumm (Serpentes: Colubridae). Journal of Herpetology 27: 107-109.
Leal, M., and R. Thomas. 1992. ELEUTHERODACTYLUS COQUI (Puerto Rican coquí). Prey. Herpetological Review 23: 79-80.
Honors & Awards
Selected honors and awards
Abraham Eisenstark Faculty Fellow Award 2015
May 13, 2019
Joshua Jones finds his passion for research
April 23, 2019
Biologists take home poster awards during this year's Life Sciences Week
May 3, 2018
New study from Leal lab sheds new light (and some shade) on anole diversification
Dec. 6, 2017
Senior Stephanie Ruck studies behavioral flexibility in lizards
April 21, 2017
Ellee Cook receives grant to study aggression in female lizards
Jan. 4, 2017
Jan. 14, 2016
New framework sheds light on how, not if, climate change affects cold blooded animals
Dec. 15, 2015
Student evolution movie project
Aug. 21, 2015
Ellee Cook receives award for research poster
Aug. 14, 2015
Look at me! Forest-dwelling anoles ‘glow’ to attract attention
July 7, 2015
April 8, 2015
April 1, 2015
March 30, 2015
March 30, 2015
Warming temperatures slow lizard behaviors
Dec. 2, 2014
Mizzou's New Lizard Guru: Manuel Leal joins biology's faculty