Intercontinental community convergence of ecology and morphology in desert lizards

Jane Melville, Luke J. Harmon, Jonathan B. Losos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Evolutionary ecologists have long debated the extent to which communities in similar environments but different geographic regions exhibit convergence. On the one hand, if species' adaptations and community structure are determined by environmental features, convergence would be expected. However, if historical contingencies have long-lasting effects convergence would be unlikely. Most studies to date have emphasized the differences between communities in similar environments and little quantitative evidence for convergence exists. The application of comparative phylogenetic methods to ecological studies provides an opportunity to further investigate hypotheses of convergence.We compared the evolutionary patterns of structural ecology and morphology of 42 species of iguanian lizards from deserts of Australia and North America. Using a comparative approach, we found that evolutionary convergence of ecology and morphology occurs both in overall, community-wide patterns and in terms of pairs of highly similar intercontinental pairs of species. This result indicates that in these desert lizards, deterministic adaptive evolution shapes community patterns and overrides the historical contingencies unique to particular lineages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)557-563
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1586
StatePublished - Mar 7 2006


  • Agamidae
  • Community ecology
  • Convergence
  • Evolution
  • Historical contingency
  • Iguanidae


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