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Am Nat. 2009 Aug;174(2):204-20. doi: 10.1086/600088.

Evolution of thermal physiology in Liolaemus lizards: adaptation, phylogenetic inertia, and niche tracking.

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Department of Biology, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis, University of Oslo, PB1066, 0316 Oslo, Norway.


Microevolutionary studies often find that complex quantitative characters are highly evolvable and adapted to the local environment, while macroevolutionary studies often show evidence of strong phylogenetic effects and stasis. In this contribution, we show how phylogenetic comparative methods can be used to test hypotheses that may help resolve this paradox. As a test case, we studied the interplay between adaptation and phylogenetic inertia on the thermobiology of 32 species of Liolaemus (Squamata: Liolaemidae), a genus of South American lizards living under diverse climatic conditions. Despite a strong phylogenetic effect in the preferred (selected) body temperature, we found clear evidence that this variable is adapted to local temperature and climate. After controlling for adaptation to the thermal environment, little influence of phylogeny was left. This indicates that the phylogenetic effect was not caused by a lag or slowness in adaptation but primarily by the distribution of the thermal environments on the phylogeny. This can be due to thermal niche tracking. In contrast, we found little or no evidence for adaptation to the thermal environment in either cooling or heating rates, critical thermal minimum, or body size.

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