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Climate anomalies and competition reduce establishment success during island colonization

Nicholson, Daniel J.; Knell, Robert J.; McCrea, Rachel S.; Neel, Lauren K.; Curlis, John David; Williams, Claire E.; Chung, Albert K.; McMillan, William Owen; Garner, Trenton W.J.; Cox, Christian L.; Logan, Michael L.


Daniel J. Nicholson

Rachel S. McCrea

Lauren K. Neel

John David Curlis

Claire E. Williams

Albert K. Chung

William Owen McMillan

Trenton W.J. Garner

Christian L. Cox

Michael L. Logan


Understanding the factors that facilitate or constrain establishment of populations in novel environments is crucial for conservation biology and the study of adaptive radiation. Important questions include: (1) Does the timing of colonization relative to stochastic events, such as climatic perturbations, impact the probability of successful establishment? (2) To what extent does community context (e.g., the presence of competitors) change the probability of establishment? (3) How do sources of intrapopulation variance, such as sex differences, affect success at an individual level during the process of establishment? Answers to these questions are rarely pursued in a field-experimental context or on the same time scales (months to years) as the processes of colonization and establishment. We introduced slender anole lizards (Anolis apletophallus) to eight islands in the Panama Canal and tracked them over multiple generations to investigate the factors that mediate establishment success. All islands were warmer than the mainland (ancestral) environment, and some islands had a native competitor. We transplanted half of these populations only 4 months before the onset of a severe regional drought and the other half 2 years (two generations) before the drought. We found that successful establishment depended on both the intensity of interspecific competition and the timing of colonization relative to the drought. The islands that were colonized shortly before the drought went functionally extinct by the second generation, and regardless of time before the drought, the populations on islands with interspecific competition declined continuously over the study period. Furthermore, the effect of the competitor interacted with sex, with males suffering, and females benefitting, from the presence of a native competitor. Our results reveal that community context and the timing of colonization relative to climactic events can combine to determine establishment success and that these factors can generate opposite effects on males and females.


Nicholson, D. J., Knell, R. J., McCrea, R. S., Neel, L. K., Curlis, J. D., Williams, C. E., …Logan, M. L. (2022). Climate anomalies and competition reduce establishment success during island colonization. Ecology and Evolution, 12(10), Article e9402.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 15, 2022
Online Publication Date Oct 8, 2023
Publication Date Oct 1, 2022
Deposit Date Jul 9, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jul 17, 2023
Journal Ecology and Evolution
Electronic ISSN 2045-7758
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 12
Issue 10
Article Number e9402
Keywords Anolis; Climate change; Community ecology; Population dynamics; Species interactions
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Copyright Statement
© 2022 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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