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Genetic and phenotypic component in head shape of common wall lizard Podarcis muralis

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Head shape in lizards correlates with a wide range of environmental pressures, supporting the hypothesis that patterns of phenotypic change represent adaptive responses to selective processes. However, natural selection promotes evolutionary adaptation only if the trait under selection has enough heritable variation. In this study we used geometric morphometrics and quantitative genetics to assess the heritability patterns of the head shape and size of common wall lizards (Podarcis muralis). Genetic and phenotypic components were estimated using animal models, which showed that more than half of the variation in head morphology is inheritable. Furthermore, at least five independent patterns of genetically determined phenotypic change were detected. These outcomes confirm that morphological differentiation in common wall lizards may reliably be regarded as the result of adaptive processes driven by natural selection.

Affiliations: 1: 1Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra e dell’Ambiente, Università di Pavia, Via Taramelli 24, 27100 Pavia, Italy ; 2: 2Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Milano, Corso Venezia 55, 20121 Milano, Italy ; 3: 3Museo di Storia Naturale, Università di Pisa, via Roma 79, 56011 Calci, Pisa, Italy

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