A lizard seen through the underside of a leaf
Credit: Ryan Calsbeek, UCLA
Evolution of genetically distinct species that live exclusively on land can be slowed by over-water dispersal following tropical storms, according to a UCLA study that suggests classic theories of island evolution need an overhaul.
In an article published Thursday, Dec. 4, in the journal Nature, postdoctoral fellow Ryan Calsbeek and Professor Thomas B. Smith of the UCLA Center for Tropical Research report that lizards long thought to be evolving independently on Caribbean Islands in fact exchange genetic material. The reason, according to their 12-month study: Hurricanes and lesser storms wash the lizards into prevailing ocean currents, which carry them from island to island.
"The lizards are being prevented from evolving as quickly as they otherwise would have," said Calsbeek, the study’s lead researcher. "We can no longer just assume that certain populations evolved independently on separate islands."
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