Composition of a chemical signalling trait varies with phylogeny and precipitation across an Australian lizard radiation

Stephen M. Zozaya*, Luisa C. Teasdale, Craig Moritz, Megan Higgie, Conrad J. Hoskin

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)


    The environment presents challenges to the transmission and detection of animal signalling systems, resulting in selective pressures that can drive signal divergence amongst populations in disparate environments. For chemical signals, climate is a potentially important selective force because factors such as temperature and moisture influence the persistence and detection of chemicals. We investigated an Australian lizard radiation (Heteronotia) to explore relationships between a sexually dimorphic chemical signalling trait (epidermal pore secretions) and two key climate variables: temperature and precipitation. We reconstructed the phylogeny of Heteronotia with exon capture phylogenomics, estimated phylogenetic signal in amongst-lineage chemical variation and assessed how chemical composition relates to temperature and precipitation using multivariate phylogenetic regressions. High estimates of phylogenetic signal indicate that the composition of epidermal pore secretions varies amongst lineages in a manner consistent with Brownian motion, although there are deviations to this, with stark divergences coinciding with two phylogenetic splits. Accounting for phylogenetic non-independence, we found that amongst-lineage chemical variation is associated with geographic variation in precipitation but not temperature. This contrasts somewhat with previous lizard studies, which have generally found an association between temperature and chemical composition. Our results suggest that geographic variation in precipitation can affect the evolution of chemical signalling traits, possibly influencing patterns of divergence amongst lineages and species.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)919-933
    Number of pages15
    JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


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