Unveiling the Secrets of Lizard Color Divergence

By: Priscilla Younes, Neyana Fortes, and Jordan Marot (Stonehill College, BIO323: Evolution, Spring 2023)


In the contrasting environments of the alpine meadows and sand dunes of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, two lizard populations have a secret weapon: the ability to use their body color for camouflage and thermoregulation, a local adaptation that helps them survive. Not only have these lizards adapted their colors to hide from predators, but they’ve also regulated their internal temperature using melanin-producing genes. In “Genetically Encoded Lizard Color Divergence for Camouflage and Thermoregulation,” Sun and his team show how the power of local adaptation allows separate populations of toadhead agamas (Phrynocephalus putjatai) to thrive in two distinct habitats. Their study highlights the importance of local adaptation, where species develop traits suited to their specific environments, and how it can lead to the divergence of species to create a new one. With combined data from field observations, genetic analyses, and other experiments, we aim to explain why the lizards developed different colors and how this enhances their survival. Tune into the Evolution Unraveled podcast for a deeper dive into this concept!

Short podcast summarizing paper. Photo from https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/109362-Phrynocephalus-putjatai/browse_photos
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