Molecular phylogenetics and evolution of sexual dichromatism among populations of the Yarrow's spiny lizard (Sceloporus jarrovii)

John J. Wiens, Tod W. Reeder, Adrián Nieto Montes De Oca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


Understanding evolution of geographic variation in sexually dimorphic traits is critical for understanding the role that sexual selection may play in speciation. We performed a phylogenetic analysis of geographic variation in sexual dichromatism in the Yarrow's spiny lizard (Sceloporus jarrovii), a taxon that exhibits remarkable diversity in male coloration among populations (e.g., black, red, green, yellow, blue, brown). An mtDNA phylogeny based on approximately 880 bp from the 12S ribosomal RNA gene and 890 bp from the ND4 gene was reconstructed for 30 populations of S. jarrovii and eight other species of the torquatus species group using maximum-likelihood and parsimony methods. The phylogeny suggests that S. jarrovii consists of at least five evolutionary species, none of which are sister taxa. Although intraspecific diversity in male coloration is less than indicated by previous taxonomy, two species formerly referred to as S. jarrovii exhibit impressive geographic variation in sexual dichromatism. In one of these species, the phylogeny shows the independent evolution of a distinctive blue color morph in different parts of the species range. This pattern suggests that sexual selection may lead to striking phenotypic divergence among conspecific populations and striking convergence. Results also demonstrate the importance of a phylogenetic perspective in studies of evolutionary processes within nominal species and the problematic nature of 'polytypic' species recognized under the biological species concept.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1884-1897
Number of pages14
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1999


  • Geographic variation
  • Phylogeny
  • Sexual selection
  • Speciation
  • Species concepts
  • mtDNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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