Project title: Natural Selection and contemporary evolution of a tropical ectotherm in response to environmental change
Summary: How species will cope with climate change is a hotly contested subject. There can be no doubt that for many species, the consequences of climate warming and greater environmental extremes will be detrimental. Certain species are more at risk than others, tropical ectotherms are one such “high risk” group of organisms as they are susceptible to temperature increase and temperature fluctuations. Whether evolution can help mitigate this susceptibility to climate change and how it might do so is not fully understood. This PhD (with Queen Mary University, IOZ and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute) will investigate the evolutionary ecology of a Anolis species under environmental change, focusing on selection pressure, how selection feeds back on itself to influence selection in the following years and how/if it influences evolution. Anolis apletophallus populations will be transplanted from sites across mainland Panama to small islands across Lake Gatun (Panama Canal). These islands have different environmental conditions (higher temperatures) to the mainland. Morphological traits, physiological traits and population dynamics will be measured across generations (in a 3.5-year period) and compared to the mainland population to assess any changes. Ultimately this project will ascertain how and if the change in environment influences evolution and what this might mean for tropical ectotherms.