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Evolution. 2000 Feb;54(1):301-5.

Evolutionary implications of phenotypic plasticity in the hindlimb of the lizard Anolis sagrei.

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Department of Biology, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri 63130-4899, USA.


Species of Anolis lizards that use broad substrates have long legs, which provide enhanced maximal sprint speed, whereas species that use narrow surfaces have short legs, which permit careful movements. We raised hatchling A. sagrei in terraria provided with only broad or only narrow surfaces. At the end of the experiment, lizards in the broad treatment had relatively longer hindlimbs than lizards in the narrow treatment. These results indicate that not only is hindlimb length a plastic trait in these lizards, but that this plasticity leads to the production of phenotypes appropriate to particular environments. Comparison to hindlimb lengths of other Anolis species indicates that the range of plasticity is limited compared to the diversity shown throughout the anole radiation. Nonetheless, this plasticity potentially could have played an important role in the early stages of the Caribbean anole radiation.

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