Sexual dimorphism and adaptive radiation in Anolis lizards


Sexual dimorphism is widespread and substantial throughout the animal world1,2. It is surprising, then, that such a pervasive source of biological diversity has not been integrated into studies of adaptive radiation, despite extensive and growing attention to both phenomena1,3,4,5,6,7. Rather, most studies of adaptive radiation either group individuals without regard to sex or focus solely on one sex. Here we show that sexual differences contribute substantially to the ecomorphological diversity produced by the adaptive radiations of West Indian Anolis lizards: within anole species, males and females occupy mostly non-overlapping parts of morphological space; the overall extent of sexual variation is large relative to interspecific variation; and the degree of variation depends on ecological type. Thus, when sexual dimorphism in ecologically relevant traits is substantial, ignoring its contribution may significantly underestimate the adaptive component of evolutionary radiation. Conversely, if sexual dimorphism and interspecific divergence are alternative means of ecological diversification, then the degree of sexual dimorphism may be negatively related to the extent of adaptive radiation.

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Figure 1: Shape dimorphism among the ecomorphs.
Figure 2: Three-dimensional visualization of morphological space.


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We acknowledge the National Science Foundation for financial support. We thank J. Higa, L.-R. Chu and C. K. Wang for assistance in the field; T. Duong and A. King for advice on analyses; and L. Harmon, J. Kolbe, B. Langerhans, S. Gavrilets and D. Simberloff for critical review of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Marguerite A. Butler.

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Supplementary Information

This file contains Supplementary Notes withSupplementary Tables 1-8, Supplementary Figures 1-2 with Legends, Supplementary Video Legend and additional references. (PDF 1241 kb)

Supplementary Video 1

This file contains Supplementary Video 1 which shows a rotating view of the 3D positions of male and female ecomorph densities shown in figure 2. (MOV 4753 kb)

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Butler, M., Sawyer, S. & Losos, J. Sexual dimorphism and adaptive radiation in Anolis lizards. Nature 447, 202–205 (2007).

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