Unveiling the Secrets of Lizard Color Divergence

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

Overview

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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The Response to Extinction Level Disasters in Black Flying Foxes and their Diverse Genetic Background

By: Conner Dagge, James Harrington, Jason Webber, Liam Zizza (Stonehill College, BIO323: Evolution, Fall 2023)

Overview

We as humans are a part of the class Mammalia, a distinct class of animals that are recognized by hair on their bodies and mammary glands to produce milk. Bats are the only mammal that is capable of prolonged flight but maintains the other identifiable traits of the mammal. The Black Flying Fox (Pteropus alecto) is a species of bat is found in Oceania countries of Australia and Papua New Guinea. It is also found in In the Southeast Asian country of Indonesia. The Black Flying Fox is characterized by a high amount of genetic diversity and its ability to survive extreme natural disasters through adaptation. This information is provided by the article, “Population genomic analysis reveals distinct demographics and recent adaptation in the black flying fox (Pteropus alecto)”. In this article it cites direct evidence for how these unique bats have high genetic diversity compared to other mammals and how they likely survived a possible extinction event thousands of years ago.

A short podcast summarizing the article. Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flying-Fox-Bat.jpg
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The Elephants of the Namib Desert

By:  Katelyn Foley, Eileen Mello, Erica Shepherd, and Joe Varney (Stonehill College, BIO323 Evolution, Spring 2018)

When a species extends across large geographic ranges, it is often found that the individual populations of the species differ physically and genetically from one another, as these subgroups are exposed to a wide range of environmental conditions within the range. Typically, populations found at the edges of the geographic range, or peripheral populations, are more likely to have adaptations or evidence of new traits as a result of their environment. One peripheral population of interest, the elephants of the Namib Desert, demonstrate unique behaviors and physical adaptations in comparison to other African savanna elephant populations. Knowing this, researchers from the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Illinois were interested in how these elephants might differ genetically, as they show different behaviors compared to populations that are nearby.

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