Evol Ecol Res 10: 1025-1036 (2008)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Variable coloration is associated with more northerly geographic range limits and larger range sizes in North American lizards and snakes

Anders Forsman and Viktor Åberg

School of Pure and Applied Natural Sciences, University of Kalmar, Kalmar, Sweden

Correspondence: A. Forsman, School of Pure and Applied Natural Sciences, University of Kalmar, SE-391 82 Kalmar, Sweden.
e-mail: anders.forsman@hik.se


Question: Is variable coloration associated with geographic distribution limits?

Hypothesis: The co-existence of two or more alternative colour variants is associated with more northerly geographic range limits and with larger range sizes.

Organisms: Lizards (77 species, 9 genera) and snakes (60 species, 8 genera) with either variable or non-variable colour patterns.

Study area: North America.

Methods: We performed pair-wise comparisons of northern distribution limits and range sizes for species with variable versus non-variable coloration.

Conclusions: Species with variable colour patterns had geographic distribution ranges that extended further north and covered much larger areas than those of congeneric species with non-variable colour patterns. Our results are consistent both with the hypothesis that species with variable colour patterns have experienced a faster rate of post-glacial range expansions, and with the competing hypothesis that species of large range that experience divergent selection more readily evolve variable colour patterns.

Keywords: biogeography, colour polymorphism, environmental variability, macro-ecology, population variability, range boundaries, reptiles.

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