Ecological character displacement alters the outcome of priority effects during community assembly

J. T. Stroud, S. T. Giery, M. Outerbridge, K. J. Feeley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Character displacement may facilitate species coexistence through niche partitioning. However, the degree to which character displacement influences broader patterns of community assembly is unclear. Here, we capitalize on a natural experiment of community assembly on the oceanic island of Bermuda. Over the past century, three species of ecologically similar but distantly related Anolis lizards have been introduced to Bermuda where no Anolis has ever naturally existed. The Jamaican anole (A. grahami) arrived first in 1905 and dispersed rapidly across the island. Five decades later, the Antiguan anole (A. leachii) and the Barbadian anole (A. extremus) were introduced to independent locations. In 1991, A. leachii and A. extremus were observed to nearly meet at a contact zone, but not yet to coexist. We record that subsequent range expansion at this contact zone has been asymmetrical; A. leachii invaded the range of A. extremus, but reciprocal invasion by A. extremus has not occurred. When in allopatry in Bermuda, both species occupy identical ecological space. However, A. leachii underwent rapid ecological character displacement to use arboreal habitat when invading the range of A. extremus. These findings highlight how character displacement may influence the process of dispersal and drive patterns of coexistence and community assembly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere02727
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2019


  • Anolis
  • character displacement
  • community assembly
  • introduced species
  • niche incumbency
  • priority effects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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