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Nature. 2010 Jun 3;465(7298):613-6. doi: 10.1038/nature09020. Epub 2010 May 9.

Experimentally assessing the relative importance of predation and competition as agents of selection.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire 03755, USA. ryan.calsbeek@dartmouth.edu


Field experiments that measure natural selection in response to manipulations of the selective regime are extremely rare, even in systems where the ecological basis of adaptation has been studied extensively. The adaptive radiation of Caribbean Anolis lizards has been studied for decades, leading to precise predictions about the influence of alternative agents of selection in the wild. Here we present experimental evidence for the relative importance of two putative agents of selection in shaping the adaptive landscape for a classic island radiation. We manipulated whole-island populations of the brown anole lizard, Anolis sagrei, to measure the relative importance of predation versus competition as agents of natural selection. We excluded or included bird and snake predators across six islands that ranged from low to high population densities of lizards, then measured subsequent differences in behaviour and natural selection in each population. Predators altered the lizards' perching behaviour and increased mortality, but predation treatments did not alter selection on phenotypic traits. By contrast, experimentally increasing population density dramatically increased the strength of viability selection favouring large body size, long relative limb length and high running stamina. Our results from A. sagrei are consistent with the hypothesis that intraspecific competition is more important than predation in shaping the selective landscape for traits central to the adaptive radiation of Anolis ecomorphs.

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