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


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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Figure 1: Differences in proportion of animals observed on the ground in experimental and control populations.
Figure 2: Change in perch height (± 1 s.e.) 10 min after introduction of either a live predatory lizard (experimental) or an inanimate object of the same size (control).
Figure 3: Distribution of perch heights on experimental and control populations six months after the introduction of predatory curly-tailed lizards to experimental islands.
Figure 4: Selection gradients for male hindlimb length (a) and female snout–vent length (b).

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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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Correspondence to Jonathan B. Losos.

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This file provides information on how marginal recapture rates were calculated. (DOC 23 kb)

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Losos, J., Schoener, T. & Spiller, D. Predator-induced behaviour shifts and natural selection in field-experimental lizard populations. Nature 432, 505–508 (2004).

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