Evolutionary stability inferred for a free ranging lizard with sex-reversal

Kristoffer H. Wild, John H. Roe, Lisa Schwanz, Arthur Georges, Stephen D. Sarre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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The sex of vertebrates is typically determined genetically, but reptile sex can also be determined by developmental temperature. In some reptiles, temperature interacts with genotype to reverse sex, potentially leading to transitions from a chromosomal to a temperature-dependent sex determining system. Transitions between such systems in nature are accelerated depending on the frequency and fitness of sex-reversed individuals. The Central Bearded Dragon, Pogona vitticeps, exhibits female heterogamety (ZZ/ZW) but can have its sex reversed from ZZ male to ZZ female by high incubation temperatures. The species exhibits sex-reversal in the wild and it has been suggested that climate change and fitness of sex-reversed individuals could be increasing the frequency of reversal within the species range. Transitions to temperature-dependent sex determination require low levels of dispersal and high (>50%) rates of sex-reversal. Here, we combine genotype-by-sequencing, identification of phenotypic and chromosomal sex, exhaustive field surveys, and radio telemetry to examine levels of genetic structure, rates of sex-reversal, movement, space use, and survival of P. vitticeps in a location previously identified as a hot spot for sex-reversal. We find that the species exhibits low levels of population structure (FST ~0.001) and a modest (~17%) rate of sex-reversal, and that sex-reversed and nonsex-reversed females have similar survival and behavioural characteristics to each other. Overall, our data indicate this system is evolutionary stable, although we do not rule out the prospect of a more gradual transition in sex-determining mechanisms in the future in a more fragmented landscape and as global temperatures increase.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2281-2292
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


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