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Evolution. 2005 Feb;59(2):409-21.

Convergence and the multidimensional niche.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Washington University, St Louis, Missouri 63130, USA.


Convergent evolution has played an important role in the development of the ecological niche concept. We investigated patterns of convergent and divergent evolution of Caribbean Anolis lizards. These lizards diversified independently on each of the islands of the Greater Antilles, producing the same set of habitat specialists on each island. Using a phylogenetic comparative framework, we examined patterns of morphological convergence in five functionally distinct sets of morphological characters: body size, body shape, head shape, lamella number, and sexual size dimorphism. We find evidence for convergence among members of the habitat specialist types for each of these five datasets. Furthermore, the patterns of convergence differ among at least four of the five datasets; habitat specialists that are similar for one set of characters are often greatly different for another. This suggests that the habitat specialist niches into which these anoles have evolved are multidimensional, involving several distinct and independent aspects of morphology.

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