Publication details

Ecological niche modelling for color morphs in Sand lizards (Lacerta agilis)



Year of publication 2020
Type Conference abstract
Description Color polymorphism refers to the presence of two or more genetically inherited color phenotypes in a same breeding population. Color has an impact on organism behavior and survival, and can serve as warning signals, sex-specific recognition, enhances thermoregulations, or communicates about the behavioral state of the particular organism. While sexual selection is frequently used to explain the persistence of polymorphisms, the role of environmental factors has received little attention. Sand lizards (Lacerta agilis, Linnaeus 1758) are small lacertid lizards, sexually dimorphic, with sympatric color morphs found throughout temperate Palearctic. The sand lizard distribution is one of the largest ranges of reptiles’ species, and it could help to understand how reptiles persist in ecosystems with anthropogenic influences. We hypothesized that different color morphs of sand lizards are distributed throughout the Palearctic realm depending on different environmental conditions. The goal of this study was to see how much morph composition in a color polymorphic lizard is explained by geographical and climate variation. We used publicly available data on sand lizard occurrence in Global Biodiversity Information Facility and environmental variables from WORLDCLIM and SEDAC databases. We categorized the sand lizard photos to ten distinct color morphs resulting in 1256 data points after thinning. We predicted the color morph ecological niches using maximum entropy models. We identified a striking link between environmental conditions and color morph distribution, implying that environmental selection acts differently on color morphs, most likely in conjunction with sexual selection.

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