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Real-World Lizards Are Evolving Right Before Our Very Eyes

Paper Reviewed
Stuart, Y.E., Campbell, T.S., Hohenlohe, P.A., Reynolds, R.G., Revell, L.J. and Losos, J.B. 2014. Rapid evolution of a native species following invasion by a congener. Science 346: 463-466.

Introducing this most interesting study, Stuart et al. (2014) write that "in recent years, biologists have increasingly recognized that evolutionary change can occur rapidly," and, therefore, they note that "real-time studies of evolution can be used to test classic evolutionary hypotheses directly," one of which is that "negative interactions between closely related species can drive phenotypic divergence," which phenomenon they say "is thought to be ubiquitous."

Continuing, the six researchers say that "an opportunity to study such real-time divergence between negatively interacting species has been provided by the recent invasion of the Cuban brown anole lizard, Anolis sagrei, into the southeastern United States, where Anolis carolinensis is the sole native anole." There, they studied "the eco-evolutionary consequences of this interaction on islands in Florida using an A. sagrei introduction experiment, well-documented natural invasions by A. sagrei, genomic analyses of population structure, and a common garden experiment."

Describing their findings, Stuart et al. report that "on small islands in Florida, we found that the lizard Anolis carolinensis moved to higher perches following invasion by Anolis sagrei and, in response, adaptively evolved larger toepads after only 20 generations," which findings illustrate, in their words, that "interspecific interactions between closely related species can drive evolutionary change on observable time scales."

In light of these findings, the U.S. scientists conclude that "studies such as this demonstrate the ongoing relevance of evolutionary biology to contemporary environmental issues," such as, we would add, potential global warming and ocean acidification. Nature, it would appear, has the ability to successfully deal with whatever challenges potential global warming and ocean acidification may foist upon it, as further demonstrated by the many journal reviews contained in the several sub-sections listed under the general heading of Evolution in our Subject Index.

Posted 30 January 2015