Hurricane effects on Neotropical lizards span geographic and phylogenetic scales

Colin M. Donihue*, Alex M. Kowaleski, Jonathan B. Losos, Adam C. Algar, Simon Baeckens, Robert W. Buchkowski, Anne-Claire Fabre, Hannah K. Frank, Anthony J. Geneva, R. Graham Reynolds, James T. Stroud, Julián A. Velasco, Jason J. Kolbe, D. Luke Mahler, Anthony Herrel

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    36 Citations (Scopus)


    Extreme climate events such as droughts, cold snaps, and hurricanes can be powerful agents of natural selection, producing acute selective pressures very different from the everyday pressures acting on organisms. However, it remains unknown whether these infrequent but severe disruptions are quickly erased by quotidian selective forces, or whether they have the potential to durably shape biodiversity patterns across regions and clades. Here, we show that hurricanes have enduring evolutionary impacts on the morphology of anoles, a diverse Neotropical lizard clade. We first demonstrate a transgenerational effect of extreme selection on toepad area for two populations struck by hurricanes in 2017. Given this short-term effect of hurricanes, we then asked whether populations and species that more frequently experienced hurricanes have larger toepads. Using 70 y of historical hurricane data, we demonstrate that, indeed, toepad area positively correlates with hurricane activity for both 12 island populations of Anolis sagrei and 188 Anolis species throughout the Neotropics. Extreme climate events are intensifying due to climate change and may represent overlooked drivers of biogeographic and large-scale biodiversity patterns.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)10429-10434
    Number of pages6
    JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
    Issue number19
    Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2020


    • Anolis
    • Cyclones
    • Extreme climate events
    • Rapid evolution


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