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Evolutionary consequences of ecological release in Caribbean

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On the large islands of the Greater Antilles, multi‐species communities of Anolis lizards are composed of species specialized to use particular habitats; similar sets of specialized species have evolved independently on each island. We studied species of anoles found on small Caribbean islands. Because these islands contain at most only one other species of anole, we predicted that species on these islands should not be as specialized as Greater Antillean species; rather, they might be expected to exhibit a generalized morphology and a greater breadth of habitat use. Our findings, however, do not confirm these predictions. Lesser Antillean species do not exhibit greater breadth of habitat use than Greater Antillean species, nor do they exhibit a generalized morphology. Most species are ecologically and morphologically similar to specialized trunk‐crown anoles of the Greater Antilles, although some species exhibit morphologies unlike those seen in Greater Antillean species. Among descendants of specialized Greater Antillean species occurring on one‐or two‐species islands, most descendants of trunk‐crown species have diverged relatively little, whereas several descendants of trunk‐ground anoles have diverged considerably. Consequently, we propose that ancestral species in the Greater Antilles may have been trunk‐crown anoles.

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, Campus Box 1137, Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63130, U.S.A. 2: Division of Amphibians and Reptiles, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC 20560, U.S.A.

Publication date: August 1, 1997

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