Populations of the lizards Anolis carolinensis and A. sagrei were experimentally introduced onto small islands in the Bahamas. Less than 15 years after introduction, we investigated whether the populations had diverged and, if so, whether differentiation was related to island vegetational characteristics or propagule size. No effect of founding population size was evident, but differentiation of A. sagrei appears to have been adaptive, a direct relationship existed between how vegetationally different an experimental island was from the source island and how much the experimental population on that island had diverged morphologically. Populations of A. carolinensis had also diverged, but were too few for quantitative comparisons. A parallel exists between the divergence of experimental populations of A. sagrei and the adaptive radiation of Anolis lizards in the Greater Antilles; in both cases, relative hindlimb length and perch diameter are strongly correlated. This differentiation could have resulted from genetic change or environmentally-driven phenotypic plasticity. Laboratory studies on A. sagrei from a population in Florida indicate that hindlimb length exhibits adaptive phenotypic plasticity. Further studies are required to determine if the observed differences among the experimental populations are the result of such plasticity. Regardless of whether the differences result from plasticity, genetic change, or both, the observation that anole populations differentiate rapidly and adaptively when exposed to novel environmental conditions has important implications for understanding the adaptive radiation of Caribbean anoles.
Losos, J BSchoener, T WWarheit, K ICreer, DengResearch Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.Netherlands2002/02/13 10:00Genetica. 2001;112-113:399-415.