Sexual dimorphism and adaptive radiation in Anolis lizards

Marguerite A. Butler, Stanley A. Sawyer, Jonathan B. Losos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

176 Scopus citations


Sexual dimorphism is widespread and substantial throughout the animal world. It is surprising, then, that such a pervasive source of biological diversity has not been integrated into studies of adaptive radiation, despite extensive and growing attention to both phenomena. Rather, most studies of adaptive radiation either group individuals without regard to sex or focus solely on one sex. Here we show that sexual differences contribute substantially to the ecomorphological diversity produced by the adaptive radiations of West Indian Anolis lizards: within anole species, males and females occupy mostly non-overlapping parts of morphological space; the overall extent of sexual variation is large relative to interspecific variation; and the degree of variation depends on ecological type. Thus, when sexual dimorphism in ecologically relevant traits is substantial, ignoring its contribution may significantly underestimate the adaptive component of evolutionary radiation. Conversely, if sexual dimorphism and interspecific divergence are alternative means of ecological diversification, then the degree of sexual dimorphism may be negatively related to the extent of adaptive radiation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-205
Number of pages4
Issue number7141
StatePublished - May 10 2007


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