Phenotypic evolution in high-elevation populations of western fence lizards (Sceloporus occidentalis) in the Sierra Nevada Mountains

Adam D. Leaché*, Der shing Helmer, Craig Moritz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Adaptive divergence in response to variable habitats, climates, and altitude is often accentuated along elevation gradients. We investigate phenotypic evolution in body size and coloration in the western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis Baird and Girard, 1852) across elevation gradients in Yosemite National Park, California, situated in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Western North America. High-elevation populations occurring above 2100 m a.s.l. are recognized as a separate subspecies (Sceloporus occidentalis taylori Camp, 1916), with a distinctive phenotype characterized by a large body size and extensive blue ventral pigmentation. We sampled S. occidentalis from across elevation gradients in Yosemite National Park, California, and collected phenotypic data (body size and ventral coloration measurements; 410 specimens) and mitochondrial DNA sequence data (complete NADH1 gene; 969 bp, 181 specimens) to infer phylogenetic relationships, and examine the genetic and phenotypic diversity among populations. Populations of S. occidentalis in Yosemite National Park follow Bergmann's rule and exhibit larger body sizes in colder, high-elevation environments. The high-elevation subspecies S. o. taylori is not monophyletic, and the mitochondrial DNA genealogy supports a model of convergent phenotypic evolution among high-elevation populations belonging to different river drainages. The hypothesis that separate populations of S. occidentalis expanded up river drainages after the recession of glaciers is supported by population demographic analyses, and suggest that Bergmann's clines can evolve rapidly along elevation gradients. The distinctive high-elevation phenotype that is attributable to S. o. taylori has evolved independently several times, and includes adaptive phenotypic changes associated with increases in body size and ventral coloration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)630-641
Number of pages12
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Volume100
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010
Externally publishedYes

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