Nav: Home

Study highlights lack of evidence for plasticity-led evolution in lizards

September 29, 2020

Scientists have challenged a popular theory behind the evolution of similar traits in island lizards, in a study published recently in eLife.

The findings in Greater Antillean Anolis lizards provide insights on why creatures often evolve similar physical features independently when living in similar habitats. They suggest that the role of developmental plasticity in shaping adaptive evolution may be less important than commonly thought.

Developmental plasticity refers to how development responds to the environment, in particular the way that an organism's genetic constitution (or genotype) interacts with its environment during development to produce a particular set of characteristics (or phenotype).

"Anolis lizards that live on all four of the Greater Antillean islands have independently and repeatedly evolved six different body types for maneuvering through their given habitat," says lead author Nathalie Feiner, Researcher at the Department of Biology, Lund University, Sweden. "As a result, they make a great model for studying why evolution often repeats itself."

To address this question, Feiner and the team used micro computed tomography scans to measure the shoulder, hip and leg bones of 95 species of anoles that live on the Greater Antillean islands. Their work revealed that several of the species' body shapes evolved along similar trajectories.

"These body shapes are adapted by natural selection, but several different shapes could in principle perform equally well in a given habitat," says senior author Tobias Uller, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the Department of Biology, Lund University. "As a result, repeated evolution is more likely to occur when species share a developmental biology that makes some characteristics appear readily, while others are rare or even impossible."

One source of these developmental biases can be found in how individuals respond to different environments, a hypothesis known as plasticity-led evolution. The researchers tested how the anoles' bones responded to stresses induced by climbing and running to see if these changes directly matched the skeletal structure (or morphology) of those specialised to a given habitat.

To do this, they raised two groups of anoles - some that typically perch on narrow twigs, and others that typically run and climb on tree trunks - on two different types of surfaces, which changed the way the animals moved or perched, as well as their morphology. However, these changes were poorly matched to the evolutionary divergence between habitat specialists that evolved repeatedly on different islands.

"The responsiveness of bone to mechanical stress is a good candidate for plasticity-led evolution," Feiner explains. "But this responsiveness does not seem to have channelled the evolution of the locomotor skeleton in Anolis lizards. Instead, our findings suggest that the morphologies that evolved again and again in these lizards are likely due to simple genetic changes."
-end-
Reference

The paper 'Plasticity and evolutionary convergence in the locomotor skeleton of Greater Antillean Anolis lizards' can be freely accessed online at https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.57468.

An accompanying eLife Insight article 'Adaptation: Evolution of island lizards remains a mystery' is also available at https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.62230.

Contents, including text, figures and data, are free to reuse under a CC BY 4.0 license.

Media contact

Emily Packer, Media Relations Manager
eLife
e.packer@elifesciences.org
01223 855373

About eLife

eLife is a non-profit organisation created by funders and led by researchers. Our mission is to accelerate discovery by operating a platform for research communication that encourages and recognises the most responsible behaviours. We work across three major areas: publishing, technology and research culture. We aim to publish work of the highest standards and importance in all areas of biology and medicine, including Evolutionary Biology, while exploring creative new ways to improve how research is assessed and published. We also invest in open-source technology innovation to modernise the infrastructure for science publishing and improve online tools for sharing, using and interacting with new results. eLife receives financial support and strategic guidance from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, the Max Planck Society and Wellcome. Learn more at https://elifesciences.org/about.

To read the latest Evolutionary Biology research published in eLife, visit https://elifesciences.org/subjects/evolutionary-biology.

eLife

Related Evolution Articles:

A timeline on the evolution of reptiles
A statistical analysis of that vast database is helping scientists better understand the evolution of these cold-blooded vertebrates by contradicting a widely held theory that major transitions in evolution always happened in big, quick (geologically speaking) bursts, triggered by major environmental shifts.
Looking at evolution's genealogy from home
Evolution leaves its traces in particular in genomes. A team headed by Dr.
How boundaries become bridges in evolution
The mechanisms that make organisms locally fit and those responsible for change are distinct and occur sequentially in evolution.
Genome evolution goes digital
Dr. Alan Herbert from InsideOutBio describes ground-breaking research in a paper published online by Royal Society Open Science.
Paleontology: Experiments in evolution
A new find from Patagonia sheds light on the evolution of large predatory dinosaurs.
A window into evolution
The C4 cycle supercharges photosynthesis and evolved independently more than 62 times.
Is evolution predictable?
An international team of scientists working with Heliconius butterflies at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama was faced with a mystery: how do pairs of unrelated butterflies from Peru to Costa Rica evolve nearly the same wing-color patterns over and over again?
Predicting evolution
A new method of 're-barcoding' DNA allows scientists to track rapid evolution in yeast.
Insect evolution: Insect evolution
Scientists at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have shown that the incidence of midge and fly larvae in amber is far higher than previously thought.
Evolution of aesthetic dentistry
One of the main goals of dental treatment is to mimic teeth and design smiles in the most natural and aesthetic manner, based on the individual and specific needs of the patient.
More Evolution News and Evolution Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.