The vagaries of history lead to the prediction that repeated instances of evolutionary diversification will lead to disparate outcomes even if starting conditions are similar. We tested this proposition by examining the evolutionary radiation of Anolis lizards on the four islands of the Greater Antilles. Morphometric analyses indicate that the same set of habitat specialists, termed ecomorphs, occurs on all four islands. Although these similar assemblages could result from a single evolutionary origin of each ecomorph, followed by dispersal or vicariance, phylogenetic analysis indicates that the ecomorphs originated independently on each island. Thus, adaptive radiation in similar environments can overcome historical contingencies to produce strikingly similar evolutionary outcomes.
Lizard and spider populations were censused immediately before and after Hurricane Lili on islands differentially affected by the storm surge. The results support three general propositions. First, the larger organisms, lizards, are more resistant to the immediate impact of moderate disturbance, whereas the more prolific spiders recover faster. Second, extinction risk is related to population size when disturbance is moderate but not when it is catastrophic. Third, after catastrophic disturbance, the recovery rate among different types of organisms is related to dispersal ability. The absence of the poorer dispersers, lizards, from many suitable islands is probably the result of long-lasting effects of catastrophes.