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Title: Experimentally simulating the evolution-to-ecology connection: Divergent predator morphologies alter natural food webs
The idea that changing environmental conditions drive adaptive evolution is a pillar of evolutionary ecology. But, the opposite—that adaptive evolution alters ecological processes—has received far less attention yet is critical for eco-evolutionary dynamics. We assessed the ecological impact of divergent values in a key adaptive trait using 16 populations of the brown anole lizard ( Anolis sagrei ). Mirroring natural variation, we established islands with short- or long-limbed lizards at both low and high densities. We then monitored changes in lower trophic levels, finding that on islands with a high density of short-limbed lizards, web-spider densities decreased and plants grew more via an indirect positive effect, likely through an herbivore-mediated trophic cascade. Our experiment provides strong support for evolution-to-ecology connections in nature, likely closing an otherwise well-characterized eco-evolutionary feedback loop.  more » « less
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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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