Presence of an invasive species reverses latitudinal clines of multiple traits in a native species

Christopher J. Thawley, Mark Goldy-Brown, Gail L. McCormick, Sean P. Graham, Tracy Langkilde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Understanding the processes driving formation and maintenance of latitudinal clines has become increasingly important in light of accelerating global change. Many studies have focused on the role of abiotic factors, especially temperature, in generating clines, but biotic factors, including the introduction of non-native species, may also drive clinal variation. We assessed the impact of invasion by predatory fire ants on latitudinal clines in multiple fitness-relevant traits—morphology, physiological stress responsiveness, and antipredator behavior—in a native fence lizard. In areas invaded by fire ants, a latitudinal cline in morphology is opposite both the cline found in museum specimens from historical populations across the species’ full latitudinal range and that found in current populations uninvaded by fire ants. Similarly, clines in stress-relevant hormone response to a stressor and in antipredator behavior differ significantly between the portions of the fence lizard range invaded and uninvaded by fire ants. Changes in these traits within fire ant-invaded areas are adaptive and together support increased and more effective antipredator behavior that allows escape from attacks by this invasive predator. However, these changes may mismatch lizards to the environments under which they historically evolved. This research shows that novel biotic pressures can alter latitudinal clines in multiple traits within a single species on ecological timescales. As global change intensifies, a greater understanding of novel abiotic and biotic pressures and how affected organisms adapt to them across space and time will be central to predicting and managing our changing environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)620-628
Number of pages9
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • General Environmental Science


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