Adaptive Color Polymorphism and Unusually High Local Genetic Diversity in the Side-Blotched Lizard, Uta stansburianaReport as inadecuate

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Recently, studies of adaptive color variation have become popular as models for examining the genetics of natural selection. We examined color pattern polymorphism and genetic variation in a population of side-blotched lizards Uta stansburiana that is found in habitats with both dark lava and light colored granite substrates. We conducted a limited experiment for adult phenotypic plasticity in laboratory conditions. We recorded both substrate and lizard color patterns in the field to determine whether lizards tended to match their substrate. Finally we examined genetic variation in a gene melanocortin 1 receptor that has been shown to affect lizard color in other species and in a presumably neutral gene mitochondrial cytochrome b. Populations were sampled in the immediate area of the lava flows as well as from a more distant site to examine the role of population structure. Our captive Uta did not change color to match their background. We show that side-blotched lizards tend to match the substrate on which it was caught in the field and that variation in the melanocortin 1 receptor gene does not correlate well with color pattern in this population. Perhaps the most remarkable result is that this population of side-blotched lizards shows extremely high levels of variation at both genetic markers, in the sense of allele numbers, with relatively low levels of between-allele sequence variation. Genetic variation across this small region was as great or greater than that seen in samples of pelagic fish species collected worldwide. Statistical analysis of genetic variation suggests rapid population expansion may be responsible for the high levels of variation.

Author: Steven Micheletti, Eliseo Parra, Eric J. Routman



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