Florida Lizard exhibits rapid evolution in 15 years

There seems to be a lot of weird news coming out of Florida these days and it isn’t limited by natural science. A native Florida lizard has quickly altered its habitat with the introduction of an invasive, non-native lizard from Cuba. Once the invasive lizards took over territorial resources by perching to the bottom of trees, the native species began moving higher up on trees and selecting for larger toe pads and more sticky scales on their feet. All these changes took place over 15 years and 20 generations.

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This is a fascinating phenomenon as it provides multiple examples of ecological concepts. Firstly, it encompasses the fundamental theory of realized versus fundamental niche. A fundamental niche is a environmental role that a species takes part in. It ignores all forms of competition and simply states the species undisturbed role. However, competition of other species allows for the fundamental role to be reduced to a “realized” niche. A realized niche is the fulfilled environmental role of the species that attributes competition and other negative species interaction as limiting the fundamental niche. In this case, the invasive Cuban lizard forced the native Florida lizards to mostly occupy the top portion of the trees. This has also lead to “resource partitioning”. This concept states that two species may coexist if there is enough partitioning of resources-territory in this case. Source: http://www.utexas.edu/news/2014/10/23/anole-lizards-evolution-florida/

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