Macroevolutionary diversification of glands for chemical communication in squamate reptiles

Roberto García-Roa, Manuel Jara, S Baeckens, Pilar López, R Van Damme, J Martín, Daniel Pincheira-Donoso

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21 Citations (Scopus)
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Chemical communication plays a central role in social, sexual and ecological interactions among animals. However, the macroevolutionary diversification of traits responsible for chemical signaling remains fundamentally unknown. Most research investigating evolutionary diversification of glands responsible for the production of chemical signals has focused on arthropods, while its study among vertebrates remains neglected. Using a global-scale dataset covering > 80% (7,904 species) of the living diversity of lizards and snakes (squamates), we investigate rates, trajectories and phylogenetic patterns of diversification of their follicular glands for chemical communication. We observed these glands in 13.66% of species, that their expression has varying phylogenetic signal among lineages, and that the crown squamate ancestor lacked follicular glands, which therefore originated and diversified subsequently during their evolutionary history. Additionally, our findings challenge the longstanding view that within squamates the Iguania are visually oriented while Scleroglossa are chemically-oriented, given that Iguania doubles Scleroglossa in the frequency of glands. Our phylogenetic analyses identified stabilizing selection as the best model describing follicular gland diversification, and revealed high rates of disparity. We provide the first global-scale analysis investigating the diversification of one of the main forms of communication among reptiles, presenting a macroevolutionary angle to questions traditionally explored at microevolutionary scale.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9288
JournalNature Scientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 24 Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


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