Science Magazine recently reported that the construction of a dam in central Brazil has spurred fast evolution of geckos in the region. In just 15 years, the lizards’ heads have grown larger—an adaptation that allows them to eat a wider variety of insects made available by the dam’s creation. The finding may signal other rapid evolutionary changes around the world as humans continue to dramatically alter natural landscape.
It’s also “exciting because it shows very rapid change on several islands, not just one,” UT ecologist Daniel Simberloff told the magazine.
A change on a single island could be a fluke, but the same change on a series of islands points to a bigger story—the adaptive advantage of having a big head.
“It all fits, and that’s pretty impressive to see,” he said.
Simberloff is Gore Hunger Professor of Environmental Studies in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and one of the world’s leading experts on invasive species.