Data from: Hurricane-induced selection on the morphology of an island lizard
Hurricanes are catastrophically destructive. Beyond their toll on human life and livelihoods, hurricanes have massive and often long-lasting effects on ecological systems. Despite many examples of mass mortality events following hurricanes, hurricane-induced natural selection has never been demonstrated. Immediately after we finished a survey of Anolis scriptus, a common, small-bodied lizard found throughout the Turks and Caicos archipelago, our study populations were battered by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Shortly thereafter, we revisited the populations to determine whether morphological traits related to clinging capacity had shifted in the intervening six weeks and found that surviving lizards differed in body size, relative limb length and toepad size from those present before the storm. Our serendipitous study, the first to employ an immediate before-after comparison to test this question, demonstrates that hurricanes can induce phenotypic change in a population, and strongly implicates natural selection as the cause. In the decades ahead, as extreme climate events are predicted to become more intense and prevalent, our understanding of evolutionary dynamics needs to incorporate the impact of these potentially severe selective episodes.
National Science Foundation,