Genetic variation in the green anole lizard (Anolis carolinensis) reveals island refugia and a fragmented Florida during the quaternary

Marc Tollis, Stéphane Boissinot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The green anole lizard (Anolis carolinensis) is a model organism for behavior and genomics that is native to the southeastern United States. It is currently thought that the ancestors of modern green anoles dispersed to peninsular Florida from Cuba. However, the climatic changes and geological features responsible for the early diversification of A. carolinensis in North America have remained largely unexplored. This is because previous studies (1) differ in their estimates of the divergence times of populations, (2) are based on a single genetic locus or (3) did not test specific hypotheses regarding the geologic and topographic history of Florida. Here we provide a multi-locus study of green anole genetic diversity and find that the Florida peninsula contains a larger number of genetically distinct populations that are more diverse than those on the continental mainland. As a test of the island refugia hypothesis in Pleistocene Florida, we use a coalescent approach to estimate the divergence times of modern green anole lineages. We find that all demographic events occurred during or after the Upper Pliocene and suggest that green anole diversification was driven by population divergence on interglacial island refugia in Florida during the Lower Pleistocene, while the region was often separated from continental North America. When Florida reconnected to the mainland, two separate dispersal events led to the expansion of green anole populations across the Atlantic Seaboard and Gulf Coastal Plain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-72
Number of pages14
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2014


  • Anolis carolinensis
  • Coalescent
  • Florida
  • Green anole
  • Historical biogeography
  • Pleistocene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science
  • Insect Science


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