For young lizards born into this unpredictable world, their very first meal can be a major life changer. So say researchers who report evidence on July 3 in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, that this early detail influences how the lizards disperse from their birthplaces, how they grow, and whether they survive. A quick or slow meal even influences the lizards’ reproductive success two years later in a surprising way. The findings demonstrate something very important: fleeting moments in time really can change the lives of individuals and the evolutionary paths of populations in a profound manner.
"A mere detail in life can make all the difference for the fate of individuals," says Manuel Massot of Université Pierre et Marie Curie. "Consequently, minor environmental variations can also influence evolution."
Massot and his colleague Pedro Aragón say they expect this kind of disproportionate response to small events, which they call “phenotypic resonance,” to be more common early in life.
The researchers studied the lizard Zootoca vivipara. The species is a live-bearing lizard, meaning it doesn’t lay eggs like most lizards do. Once the lizards are born, they are on their own…