Adapting lizards

Twenty years ago, evolutionary biologists transplanted small poplations of Anolis sagrei lizards from Staniel Cay in the Bahamas to several nearby islands, in the hope that the reptiles would go extinct. Instead, the small brown lizards flourished even though their new homes differed dramatically from their original island. Resear- chers have found that the trans- planted lizards were in the first stages of an adaptive radiation and were undergoing body changes needed to inhabit a new environ- ment. Such changes could in time turn each island's population into a separate species. Researchers have also found that the lizards' hindlimbs grew shorter, an appa- rent adaptation to the bushy vegeta- tion that dominates their new islands. Studying their adaptation, researchers found that the species living on tree trunks have longer legs than those living on twigs, apparently because the latter can be agile with shorter legs that are so crucial on bushy vegetation {Science, Vo1276, No 5313).

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