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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Aug 11;112(32):9961-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1506516112. Epub 2015 Jul 27.

Amber fossils demonstrate deep-time stability of Caribbean lizard communities.

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  • 1School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia; Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138;
  • 2Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138;
  • 3School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, United Kingdom;
  • 4Center for Population Biology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616;
  • 5Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610;
  • 6Département d'Ecologie et de Gestion de la Biodiversité, UMR 7179, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France; Evolutionary Morphology of Vertebrates, Ghent University, B-9000 Gent, Belgium;
  • 7Department of Vertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20560.


Whether the structure of ecological communities can exhibit stability over macroevolutionary timescales has long been debated. The similarity of independently evolved Anolis lizard communities on environmentally similar Greater Antillean islands supports the notion that community evolution is deterministic. However, a dearth of Caribbean Anolis fossils--only three have been described to date--has precluded direct investigation of the stability of anole communities through time. Here we report on an additional 17 fossil anoles in Dominican amber dating to 15-20 My before the present. Using data collected primarily by X-ray microcomputed tomography (X-ray micro-CT), we demonstrate that the main elements of Hispaniolan anole ecomorphological diversity were in place in the Miocene. Phylogenetic analysis yields results consistent with the hypothesis that the ecomorphs that evolved in the Miocene are members of the same ecomorph clades extant today. The primary axes of ecomorphological diversity in the Hispaniolan anole fauna appear to have changed little between the Miocene and the present, providing evidence for the stability of ecological communities over macroevolutionary timescales.


Anolis; Hispaniola; Miocene; adaptive radiation; ecomorph

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