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Evolution. 2002 Apr;56(4):785-91.

Lack of convergence in aquatic Anolis lizards.

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Department of Biology, Union College, Schenectady, New York 12308, USA.


Why convergent evolution occurs among some species occupying similar habitats but not among others is a question that has received surprisingly little attention. Caribbean Anolis lizards, known for their extensive convergent evolution among islands in the Greater Antilles, are an appropriate group with which to address this question. Despite the well-documented pattern of between-island convergence, some Greater Antillean anoles are not obviously part of the convergence syndrome. One example involves aquatic anoles--species that are found near to and readily enter streams-which have evolved independently twice in the Caribbean and also twice on mainland Central America. Despite being found in similar habitats, no previous study has investigated whether aquatic anoles represent yet another case of morphological convergence. We tested this hypothesis by collecting morphological data for seven aquatic anole species and 29 species from the six convergent types of Greater Antillean habitat specialists. We failed to find evidence for morphological convergence: the two Caribbean aquatic species are greatly dissimilar to each other and to the Central American species, which, however, may be convergent upon each other. We suggest two possible reasons for this lack of convergence in an otherwise highly convergent system: either there is more than one habitat type occupied by anoles in the proximity of water, or there is more than one way to adapt to a single aquatic habitat. We estimate that almost all of the 113 species of Greater Antillean anoles occupy habitats that are also used by distantly related species, but only 15% of these species are not morphologically similar to their distantly related ecological counterparts. Comparative data from other taxa would help enlighten the question of why the extent of convergence is so great in some lineages and not in others.

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