Fine-scale genetic structuring in a group-living lizard, the gidgee skink (Egernia stokesii)

Sarah K. Pearson, Gregory R. Johnston, C. Michael Bull, Aaron L. Fenner, Michael G. Gardner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

By constraining gene flow, group living and natal philopatry can result in fine-scale genetic structure. Although the genetic structure of some group-living lizards has been characterised, studies are few compared with those for group-living bird and mammal species. The Egerniinae group of lizards exhibits a high diversity of social structures, making it a useful group for comparative studies of genetic structure across a broader range of social taxa. A well-studied member of Egerniinae is Egernia stokesii, a lizard that forms long-term pair bonds and stable social groups and exhibits natal philopatry and limited dispersal. Evidence exists for consistent E. stokesii social structure across seven close but disconnected rocky outcrops within a 40 × 10 km area. We used summary statistics, analysis of molecular variance, Bayesian clustering, and discriminant analysis of principal components to assess if E. stokesii exhibit a consistent pattern of fine-scale genetic structure across the same seven outcrops. Due to E. stokesii social structure and constrained dispersal, we predicted significant genetic structuring – based on microsatellite markers – among outcrops. We found significant fine-scale genetic structuring and evidence for two genetic clusters. We discuss features of E. stokesii biology and ecology that may explain our findings. Some rocky outcrops, and some social groups, contained lizards from both genetic clusters. An examination of the composition of mixed cluster social groups did not detect any notable patterns. Therefore, further work is necessary to identify how the observed patterns may have arisen. Future investigations in E. stokesii and other group-living lizard species are likely to contribute greatly to our understanding of the genetic consequences of group living.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-443
Number of pages9
JournalAustral Ecology
Volume45
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020

Keywords

  • Egernia stokesii
  • genetic structure
  • group living
  • microsatellites
  • sociality

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