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Am Nat. 2018 Jan;191(1):E15-E26. doi: 10.1086/694779. Epub 2017 Oct 25.

Thermoregulatory Behavior Simultaneously Promotes and Forestalls Evolution in a Tropical Lizard.


The role of behavior in evolution has long been discussed, with some arguing that behavior promotes evolution by exposing organisms to selection (behavioral drive) and others proposing that it inhibits evolution by shielding organisms from environmental variation (behavioral inertia). However, this discussion has generally focused on the effects of behavior along a single axis without considering that behavior simultaneously influences selection in various niche dimensions. By examining evolutionary change along two distinct niche axes-structural and thermal-we propose that behavior simultaneously drives and impedes evolution in a group of Anolis lizards from the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. Specifically, a behavioral shift in microhabitat to boulders at high altitude enables thermoregulation, thus forestalling physiological evolution in spite of colder environments. This same behavioral shift drives skull and limb evolution to boulder use. Our results emphasize the multidimensional effects of behavior in evolution. These findings reveal how, rather than being diametrically opposed, niche conservatism and niche lability can occur simultaneously. Furthermore, patterns of niche evolution may vary at different geographic scales: because of thermoregulatory behavior, lizards at high and low elevation share similar microclimatic niches (consistent with niche conservatism) while inhabiting distinct macroclimatic environments (consistent with niche divergence). Together, our results suggest that behavior can connect patterns of niche divergence and conservatism at different geographic scales and among traits.


Bogert effect; Caribbean; behavior; lizard; niche evolution; thermoregulation

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