Contributions to Zoology, 81 (4) – 2012Luis M. San-Jose; Virginia Gonzalez-Jimena; Patrick S. Fitze: Patterns of phenotypic variation reveal substantial differentiation in sexual dimorphism of three Psammodromus (Squamata, Lacertidae) species

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Abstract

The Spanish sand racer (Psammodromus hispanicus) has been recently split into three distinct species: P. hispanicus, P. edwardsianus, and P. occidentalis. Some morphological differences have been reported but there is as yet no description allowing unambiguous identification of the three species. Here, we describe differentiation in body measurements, scalation traits, and colour traits as well as in the degree of sexual dimorphism. Our results show that P. edwardsianus can be easily distinguished by the presence of a supralabial scale below the subocular scale, which is absent in the other two species. Psammodromus hispanicus and P. occidentalis can be distinguished by the number of femoral pores, throat scales and ocelli, and the relative width of the anal scale. The degree of sexual size dimorphism and sexual colour dimorphism substantially differs among species, suggesting that different scenarios of sexual and natural selection may exist for each species. Moreover, sexually selected traits (nuptial colouration, ocelli, and femoral pores) significantly differ among species, suggesting that visual and chemical communication may also differ among species. Such differences could prevent reproduction and gene flow at secondary contact zones, potentially reinforcing isolation and speciation within this group of lizards.