The evolutionary processes that produce adaptive radiations are enigmatic. They can only be studied after the fact, once a radiation has occurred and been recognized, rather than while the processes are ongoing. One way to connect pattern to process is to study the processes driving divergence today among populations of species that belong to an adaptive radiation, and compare the results to patterns observed at a deeper, macroevolutionary level. We tested whether evolution is a deterministic process with similar outcomes during different stages of the adaptive radiation of Anolis lizards. Using a clade of terrestrial-scansorial lizards in the genus Anolis, we inferred the adaptive basis of spatial variation among contemporary populations and tested whether axes of phenotypic differentiation among them mirror known axes of diversification at deeper levels of the anole radiation. Nonparallel change associated with genetic divergence explains the vast majority of geographic variation. However, we found phenotypic variation to be adaptive as confirmed by convergence in populations occurring in similar habitats in different mountain ranges. Morphological diversification among populations recurs deterministically along two axes of diversification previously identified in the anole radiation, but the characters involved differ from those involved in adaptation at higher levels of anole phylogeny.
G. G. Simpson, one of the chief architects of evolutionary biology's modern synthesis, proposed that diversification occurs on a macroevolutionary adaptive landscape, but landscape models are seldom used to study adaptive divergence in large radiations. We show that for Caribbean Anolis lizards, diversification on similar Simpsonian landscapes leads to striking convergence of entire faunas on four islands. Parallel radiations unfolding at large temporal scales shed light on the process of adaptive diversification, indicating that the adaptive landscape may give rise to predictable evolutionary patterns in nature, that adaptive peaks may be stable over macroevolutionary time, and that available geographic area influences the ability of lineages to discover new adaptive peaks.
Species-rich adaptive radiations typically diversify along several distinct ecological axes, each characterized by morphological, physiological, and behavioral adaptations. We test here whether different types of adaptive traits share similar patterns of evolution within a radiation by investigating patterns of evolution of morphological traits associated with microhabitat specialization and of physiological traits associated with thermal biology in Anolis lizards. Previous studies of anoles suggest that close relatives share the same "structural niche" (i.e., use the same types of perches) and are similar in body size and shape, but live in different "climatic niches" (i.e., use habitats with different insolation and temperature profiles). Because morphology is closely tied to structural niche and field active body temperatures are tied to climatic niches in Anolis, we expected phylogenetic analyses to show that morphology is more evolutionarily conservative than thermal physiology. In support of this hypothesis, we find (1) that thermal biology exhibits more divergence among recently diverged Anolis taxa than does morphology; and (2) diversification of thermal biology among all species often follows diversification in morphology. These conclusions are remarkably consistent with predictions made by anole biologists in the 1960s and 1970s.
Ecological character displacement (ECD), the evolutionary divergence of competing species, has oscillated wildly in scientific opinion. Initially thought to play a central role in community assembly and adaptive radiation, ECD recovered from a 1980s nadir to present-day prominence on the strength of many case studies compiled in several influential reviews. However, we reviewed recent studies and found that only nine of 144 cases are strong examples that have ruled out alternative explanations for an ECD-like pattern. We suggest that the rise in esteem of ECD has outpaced available data and that more complete, rather than simply more, case studies are needed. Recent years have revealed that evolutionary change can be observed as it occurs, opening the door to experimental field studies as a new approach to studying ECD.
Investigating the properties of ecological landscapes that influence gene flow among populations can provide key insights into the earliest stages of biological divergence. Both ecological and geographical factors can reduce gene flow, which can lead to population divergence, but we know little of the relative strengths of these phenomena in nature. Here, we use a novel application of structural equation modelling to quantify the contributions of ecological and geographical isolation to spatial genetic divergence in 17 species of Anolis lizards. Our comparative analysis shows that although both processes contributed significantly, geographical isolation explained substantially more genetic divergence than ecological isolation (36.3 vs. 17.9% of variance respectively), suggesting that despite the proposed ubiquity of ecological divergence, non-ecological factors play the dominant role in the evolution of spatial genetic divergence.
Studies integrating evolutionary and developmental analyses of morphological variation are of growing interest to biologists as they promise to shed fresh light on the mechanisms of morphological diversification. Sexually dimorphic traits tend to be incredibly divergent across taxa. Such diversification must arise through evolutionary modifications to sex differences during development. Nevertheless, few studies of dimorphism have attempted to synthesize evolutionary and developmental perspectives. Using geometric morphometric analysis of head shape for 50 Anolis species, we show that two clades have converged on extreme levels of sexual dimorphism through similar, male-specific changes in facial morphology. In both clades, males have evolved highly elongate faces whereas females retain faces of more moderate proportion. This convergence is accomplished using distinct developmental mechanisms; one clade evolved extreme dimorphism through the exaggeration of a widely shared, potentially ancestral, developmental strategy whereas the other clade evolved a novel developmental strategy not observed elsewhere in the genus. Together, our analyses indicate that both shared and derived features of development contribute to macroevolutionary patterns of morphological diversity among Anolis lizards.
J. B. Losos, S. J. Arnold, G. Bejerano, 3rd Brodie, E. D., D. Hibbett, HE Hoekstra, D. P. Mindell, A. Monteiro, C. Moritz, H. A. Orr, D. A. Petrov, S. S. Renner, R. E. Ricklefs, P. S. Soltis, and T. L. Turner. 2013. “Evolutionary biology for the 21st century.” PLoS Biology, 11: e1001466.
Anolis carolinensis is an emerging model species and the sole member of its genus native to the United States. Considerable morphological and physiological variation has been described in the species, and the recent sequencing of its genome makes it an attractive system for studies of genome variation. To inform future studies of molecular and phenotypic variation within A. carolinensis, a rigorous account of intraspecific population structure and relatedness is needed. Here, we present the most extensive phylogeographic study of this species to date. Phylogenetic analyses of mitochondrial DNA sequence data support the previous hypothesis of a western Cuban origin of the species. We found five well-supported, geographically distinct mitochondrial haplotype clades throughout the southeastern United States. Most Florida populations fall into one of three divergent clades, whereas the vast majority of populations outside Florida belong to a single, shallowly diverged clade. Genetic boundaries do not correspond to major rivers, but may reflect effects of Pleistocene glaciation events and the Appalachian Mountains on migration and expansion of the species. Phylogeographic signal should be examined using nuclear loci to complement these findings.
Many oceanic islands are notable for their high endemism, suggesting that islands may promote unique assembly processes. However, mainland assemblages sometimes harbour comparable levels of endemism, suggesting that island biotas may not be as unique as is often assumed. Here, we test the uniqueness of island biotic assembly by comparing the rate of species turnover among islands and the mainland, after accounting for distance decay and environmental gradients. We modelled species turnover as a function of geographical and environmental distance for mainland (M-M) communities of Anolis lizards and Terrarana frogs, two clades that have diversified extensively on Caribbean islands and the mainland Neotropics. We compared mainland-island (M-I) and island-island (I-I) species turnover with predictions of the M-M model. If island assembly is not unique, then the M-M model should successfully predict M-I and I-I turnover, given geographical and environmental distance. We found that M-I turnover and, to a lesser extent, I-I turnover were significantly higher than predicted for both clades. Thus, in the first quantitative comparison of mainland-island species turnover, we confirm the long-held but untested assumption that island assemblages accumulate biodiversity differently than their mainland counterparts.
Complex organismal structures are organized into modules, suites of traits that develop, function, and vary in a coordinated fashion. By limiting or directing covariation among component traits, modules are expected to represent evolutionary building blocks and to play an important role in morphological diversification. But how stable are patterns of modularity over macroevolutionary timescales? Comparative analyses are needed to address the macroevolutionary effect of modularity, but to date few have been conducted. We describe patterns of skull diversity and modularity in Caribbean Anolis lizards. We first diagnose the primary axes of variation in skull shape and then examine whether diversification of skull shape is concentrated to changes within modules or whether changes arose across the structure as a whole. We find no support for the hypothesis that cranial modules are conserved as species diversify in overall skull shape. Instead we find that anole skull shape and modularity patterns independently converge. In anoles, skull modularity is evolutionarily labile and may reflect the functional demands of unique skull shapes. Our results suggest that constraints have played little role in limiting or directing the diversification of head shape in Anolis lizards.
The extent to which random processes such as founder events contribute to evolutionary divergence is a long-standing controversy in evolutionary biology. To determine the respective contributions of founder effects and natural selection, we conducted an experiment in which brown anole (Anolis sagrei) lizard populations were established on seven small islands in the Bahamas, from male-female pairs randomly drawn from the same large-island source. These founding events generated significant among-island genetic and morphological differences that persisted throughout the course of the experiment despite all populations adapting in the predicted direction-shorter hindlimbs-in response to the narrower vegetation on the small islands. Thus, using a replicated experiment in nature, we showed that both founder effects and natural selection jointly determine trait values in these populations.
The axial skeleton is a defining feature of vertebrates and is patterned during somitogenesis. Cyclically expressed members of the notch and other signaling pathways, described as the 'segmentation clock', regulate the formation of somite boundaries. Comparisons among vertebrate model systems have revealed fundamental shifts in the regulation of expression among critical genes in the notch pathway. However, insights into the evolution of these expression differences have been limited by the lack of information from non-avian reptiles. We analyzed the segmentation clock of the first Lepidosaurian reptile sequenced, the green anole lizard, Anolis carolinensis, for comparison with avian and mammalian models. Using genomic sequence, RNA-Seq transcriptomic data, and in situ hybridization analysis of somite-stage embryos, we carried out comparative analyses of key genes and found that the anole segmentation clock displays features common to both amniote and anamniote vertebrates. Shared features with anamniotes, represented by Xenopus laevis and Danio rerio, include an absence of lunatic fringe (lfng) expression within the presomitic mesoderm (PSM), a hes6a gradient in the PSM not observed in the chicken or mouse, and EGF repeat structure of the divergent notch ligand, dll3. The anole and mouse share cycling expression of dll1 ligand in the PSM. To gain insight from an Archosaurian reptile, we analysed LFNG and DLL1 expressions in the American alligator. LFNG expression was absent in the alligator PSM, like the anole but unlike the chicken. In contrast, DLL1 expression does not cycle in the PSM of the alligator, similar to the chicken but unlike the anole. Thus, our analysis yields novel insights into features of the segmentation clock that are evolutionarily basal to amniotes versus those that are specific to mammals, Lepidosaurian reptiles, or Archosaurian reptiles.
Global change is predicted to alter environmental conditions for populations in numerous ways; for example, invasive species often experience substantial shifts in climatic conditions during introduction from their native to non-native ranges. Whether these shifts elicit a phenotypic response, and how adaptation and phenotypic plasticity contribute to phenotypic change, are key issues for understanding biological invasions and how populations may respond to local climate change. We combined modeling, field data, and a laboratory experiment to test for changing thermal tolerances during the introduction of the tropical lizard Anolis cristatellus from Puerto Rico to Miami, Florida. Species distribution models and bioclimatic data analyses showed lower minimum temperatures, and greater seasonal and annual variation in temperature for Miami compared to Puerto Rico. Two separate introductions of A. cristatellus occurred in Miami about 12 km apart, one in South Miami and the other on Key Biscayne, an offshore island. As predicted from the shift in the thermal climate and the thermal tolerances of other Anolis species in Miami, laboratory acclimation and field acclimatization showed that the introduced South Miami population of A. cristatellus has diverged from its native-range source population by acquiring low-temperature acclimation ability. By contrast, the introduced Key Biscayne population showed little change compared to its source. Our analyses predicted an adaptive response for introduced populations, but our comparisons to native-range sources provided evidence for thermal plasticity in one introduced population but not the other. The rapid acquisition of thermal plasticity by A. cristatellus in South Miami may be advantageous for its long-term persistence there and expansion of its non-native range. Our results also suggest that the common assumption of no trait variation when modeling non-native species distributions is invalid.
The independent evolution of similar morphologies has long been a subject of considerable interest to biologists. Does phenotypic convergence reflect the primacy of natural selection, or does development set the course of evolution by channelling variation in certain directions? Here, we examine the ontogenetic origins of relative limb length variation among Anolis lizard habitat specialists to address whether convergent phenotypes have arisen through convergent developmental trajectories. Despite the numerous developmental processes that could potentially contribute to variation in adult limb length, our analyses reveal that, in Anolis lizards, such variation is repeatedly the result of changes occurring very early in development, prior to formation of the cartilaginous long bone anlagen.
Although abiotic and biotic factors can interact to shape the spatial niche of a species, studies that explore the interactive effects of both at a local scale are rare. We demonstrate that one of the main axes (perch height) characterizing the spatial niche of a common lizard, Anolis sagrei, varies according to the interactive effects of weather and the activity of a larger predatory lizard, Leiocephalus carinatus. Results were completely consistent: no matter how favorable the weather conditions for using the ground (mainly characterized by temperature, humidity, wind speed, rain), A. sagrei did not do so if the predator was present. Hence, great behavioral plasticity enabled A. sagrei to adjust its use of space very quickly. To the best of our knowledge, these results constitute the first field demonstration for anoles (and possibly for other animals as well) of how time-varying environmental conditions and predator presence interact to produce short-term changes in utilization along a major niche axis.