Collaborative Research: Inferring the impacts of closely-related species on pheno - Resubmission - 1

Project: Research project

Project Details


Collaborative Research: Inferring the impacts of closely-related species on pheno - Resubmission - 1 Collaborative Research: Inferring the impacts of closely-related species on phenotypic evolution Closely related taxa that live in geographic proximity (e.g., sympatric congeners) impose a potentially widespread and under-recognized evolutionary force. Congeners are often phenotypically similar and so can compete for resources, while needing also to avoid wasted mating attempts and hybridization. Sympatric congeners may also become each others predators and prey or alter each others microhabitat. Classic studies of adaptive radiations on islands (e.g., Anolis lizards, Darwins finches, Hawaiian silverswords) provide broad insights into natural selection through examples of the repeated evolutionary impact of closely related taxa with similar results (e.g., competitive exclusion, convergence). Although sympatric congeners are also likely to be important on mainlands, research has been slow, in part, because of the technical challenges of identifying geographic and morphological boundaries and the time consuming nature of the necessary work. Overview Here, we focus on Sceloporus lizards, a genus of roughly 90 species that vary in congeneric sympatry. We begin by testing for morphological and ecological types, gathering new data from CT scans and geometric morphometric analyses of museum specimens and field surveys in Mexico and the southwestern United States. We then conduct phylogenetic tests of whether closely related, sympatric taxa have contributed to diversification of species and their phenotypes. Finally, we combine phylogenetic, climate, and fossil information to reconstruct the evolutionary and geographic history of Sceloporus species assemblages and their morphologies, testing hypotheses about the processes by which interspecies interactions lead to species turnover and diversification. Intellectual Merit Our project promises new insights into the ways in which sympatric congeners shape phenotypic evolution, and new approaches to test hypotheses about interspecific interactions across much larger phylogenetic and geographic scales. We test hypotheses about the importance of foraging, habitat use, and parity as drivers of interspecific interactions, ask whether sympatric congeners have imposed similar selective pressures in repeated evolutionary episodes, and test for links between the biodiversity of sympatric species assemblages (e.g., species richness, phylogenetic diversity) and landscape characteristics (e.g., habitat heterogeneity). Along the way, we address our questions with public data, readily accessible via the internet, and contribute to future studies by adding new data and R scripts for those who want to conduct similar analyses with other taxa. Broader Impacts Our project emphasizes international collaboration (US and Mexico) and community science. We leverage our identities and institutions to reach out, in particular, to Latinx students, and engage them in conducting the actual research. In addition, we contribute to community science by developing reliability protocols for morphometric scoring, and bilingual ecological field surveys that we then disseminate to nature preserves throughout the southwestern US and Mexico. We develop bilingual outreach activities on morphological evolution and phylogeography, making use of our three institutions science museums and online outreach programs to share these with the general public.
Effective start/end date6/1/225/31/25


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $887,162.00


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