Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Biologists find unexpected rapid evolution in Caribbean lizards

15.07.2003


’Lizards gone wild’



Despite social notions of race, human populations around the world are genetically so similar that geneticists find no different sub-species among them. The genetic continuity of human populations is the exception rather than the rule for most animal species, however.

Richard Glor, graduate evolutionary biology student in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, has found extensive genetic differentiation among populations of numerous Anolis lizard species inhabiting single Caribbean islands. While to the naked eye the lizards appear to be uniform, these lizards from the islands of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and Jamaica all show a surprising amount of genetic diversity. Glor goes to the islands and collects lizard samples to study morphology, or body features, and color patterns and then sequences DNA from the different species.


"The levels of differentiation we’re seeing genetically with anoles completely blows away any kind of variation in humans," Glor said. "We’ve found an unanticipated dimension of biodiversity, far greater than ever thought to exist. If you look at DNA in any widespread species, it suggests that several species may actually be present."

The variation that Glor has found startles evolutionary biologists and challenges researchers to understand what is causing the DNA evolution, said Jonathan Losos, Ph.D., Washington University professor of biology, and Glor’s co-adviser.

"What’s so exciting about the variation Rich has discovered is that it’s completely unexpected," said Losos, who has studied Caribbean lizards for more than 15 years. "These lizards have been a model system for understanding evolutionary diversification for 30-plus years,including by a number of famous scientists, yet Rich was the first to discover this. He’s uncovered a whole different layer of speciation and diversification in these species. It’s possible that one group is not just one species but represents maybe six or eight species. At the very least, it shows within species there is a lot of genetic diversity that we had been clueless about beforehand."

Glor’s other adviser is Allan Larson, Ph.D., professor of biology at Washington University. Part of the results of the Anolis study will be published in a forthcoming issue of Evolution.

Glor has found significant geographic differentiation in 11 of 12 widespread Anolis species that he’s analyzed. He has focused on two widely distributed species for each island. Two common ones to all four islands are what are known as a trunk-ground species -- lizards that live at the bottom of tree trunks and forage on the ground – and a trunk-crown species, which live at the treetop and forage in the foliage found there. Glor and Larson’s analyses show that a trunk-crown species in Hispaniola diverged millions of years ago from those in Cuba, and different trunk-crown species on Hispaniola are genetically different from other populations in different regions of the island.

"With each species, there are forms that in one area are greatly different genetically from what we thought was the same species in another area," Glor said.

Glor and his collaborators intend to formulate and test theories on what is driving the genetic variation. Geographic events – the formation of a mountain range, the rising and falling of sea levels, the creation of river valleys – are potential factors. Ecological heterogeneity is another possibility. Species whose ranges extend across a range of different habitats may diverge from one another; for instance, natural selection may drive populations from a dry coastal area on an island to diverge from adjacent populations in wet inland forests. To determine this, the researches will have to analyze the DNA and develop phylogenies –trees that represent evolutionary relationships and incorporate a time factor. This will help them see the patterns of species diversification over time. "What’s so good about anoles is that they are so abundant and what’s so good about these islands is that the same ecologies have evolved independently on all the islands," Glor said.

Another research thrust will be an effort to determine if the size of the island or other factors such as species ecology has an impact on the rate of fragmentation and speciation. Cuba is the largest island, followed by Hispaniola, Jamaica and Puerto Rico. Does speciation occur differently if the playing field is larger?

"Having at least two species from each island and all of the islands varying in size allows us to probe these kinds of questions, " Glor said.

Tony Fitzpatrick | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wustl.edu/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Hunting pathogens at full force
22.03.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

nachricht A 155 carat diamond with 92 mm diameter
22.03.2017 | Universität Augsburg

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Pulverizing electronic waste is green, clean -- and cold

22.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers hazard a ride in a 'drifting carousel' to understand pulsating stars

22.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New gel-like coating beefs up the performance of lithium-sulfur batteries

22.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>