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Publication Title

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America


Department of Biological Sciences


Tropical ectotherms are thought to be especially vulnerable to climate change because they are adapted to relatively stable temperature regimes, such that even small increases in environmental temperature may lead to large decreases in physiological performance. One way in which tropical organisms may mitigate the detrimental effects of warming is through evolutionary change in thermal physiology. The speed and magnitude of this response depend, in part, on the strength of climate-driven selection. However, many ectotherms use behavioral adjustments to maintain preferred body temperatures in the face of environmental variation. These behaviors may shelter individuals from natural selection, preventing evolutionary adaptation to changing conditions. Here, we mimic the effects of climate change by experimentally transplanting a population of Anolis sagrei lizards to a novel thermal environment. Transplanted lizards experienced warmer and more thermally variable conditions, which resulted in strong directional selection on thermal performance traits. These same traits were not under selection in a reference population studied in a less thermally stressful environment. Our results indicate that climate change can exert strong natural selection on tropical ectotherms, despite their ability to thermoregulate behaviorally. To the extent that thermal performance traits are heritable, populations may be capable of rapid adaptation to anthropogenic warming.