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Data from: Convergence in reduced body size, head size, and blood glucose in three island reptiles

Cite this dataset

Sparkman, Amanda M. et al. (2019). Data from: Convergence in reduced body size, head size, and blood glucose in three island reptiles [Dataset]. Dryad.


Many oceanic islands harbor diverse species that differ markedly from their mainland relatives with respect to morphology, behaviour, and physiology. A particularly common morphological change exhibited by a wide range of species on islands worldwide involves either a reduction in body size, termed island dwarfism, or an increase in body size, termed island gigantism. While numerous instances of dwarfism and gigantism have been well documented, documentation of other morphological changes on islands remains limited. Furthermore, we lack a basic understanding of the physiological mechanisms that underlie these changes, and whether they are convergent. A major hypothesis for the repeated evolution of dwarfism posits selection for smaller, more efficient body sizes in the context of low resource availability. Under this hypothesis we would expect the physiological mechanisms known to be downregulated in model organisms exhibiting small body sizes due to dietary restriction or artificial selection would also be downregulated in wild species exhibiting dwarfism on islands. We measured body size, relative head size, and circulating blood glucose in three species of reptiles—two snakes and one lizard—in the California Channel Islands relative to mainland populations. Collating data from six years of study, we found that relative to mainland population the island populations had smaller body size (i.e. island dwarfism), smaller head sizes relative to body size, and lower levels of blood glucose, though with some variation by sex and year. These findings suggest that the island populations of these three species have independently evolved convergent physiological changes (lower glucose set-point) corresponding to convergent changes in morphology that are consistent with a scenario of reduced resource availability and/or changes in prey size on the islands. This provides a powerful system to further investigate ecological, physiological, and genetic variables to elucidate the mechanisms underlying convergent changes in life history on islands.

Usage notes


California Channel Islands