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Predator-induced behaviour shifts and natural selection in field-experimental lizard populations

Nature volume 432, pages 505508 (25 November 2004) | Download Citation



The role of behaviour in evolutionary change has long been debated. On the one hand, behavioural changes may expose individuals to new selective pressures by altering the way that organisms interact with the environment, thus driving evolutionary divergence1,2,3. Alternatively, behaviour can act to retard evolutionary change4,5,6: by altering behavioural patterns in the face of new environmental conditions, organisms can minimize exposure to new selective pressures. This constraining influence of behaviour has been put forward as an explanation for evolutionary stasis within lineages4,7,8,9 and niche conservatism within clades10,11. Nonetheless, the hypothesis that behavioural change prevents natural selection from operating in new environments has never been experimentally tested. We conducted a controlled and replicated experimental study of selection in entirely natural populations; we demonstrate that lizards alter their habitat use in the presence of an introduced predator, but that these behavioural shifts do not prevent patterns of natural selection from changing in experimental populations.

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We thank the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society for support, J. Chase, T. Knight and B. Pinder for assistance, R. B. Langerhans for suggesting the approach to study selection and helping in its implementation, D. Bolnick, J. Chase, B. Fitzpatrick, F. Janzen, T. Knight, B. Langerhans, M. Leal, M. Turelli and the Turelli labgroup, for constructive comments on previous drafts, and the Bahamian government for permission to conduct this research.

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  1. Department of Biology, Campus Box 1137, Washington University, St Louis, Missouri 63130, USA

    • Jonathan B. Losos
  2. Section of Ecology and Evolution and Center for Population Biology, University of California, Davis, California 95616, USA

    • Thomas W. Schoener
    •  & David A. Spiller


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Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jonathan B. Losos.

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    Supplementary Methods

    This file provides information on how marginal recapture rates were calculated.

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