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Limb Loss In Lizards: Evidence For Rapid Evolution

Date:
November 11, 2008
Source:
BMC Evolutionary Biology
Summary:
Small skink lizards, Lerista, demonstrate extensive changes in body shape over geologically brief periods. New research shows that several species of these skinks have rapidly evolved an elongate, limbless body form.

A lerista with reduced legs (lerista punctovittata).
Credit: Photo by Mark Hutchinson

Small skink lizards, Lerista, demonstrate extensive changes in body shape over geologically brief periods. Several species of these skinks have rapidly evolved an elongate, limbless body form.

Skinks are a common sight in Australia and many species have limbs that are either reduced or missing entirely. According to the lead author of this study, Adam Skinner of The University of Adelaide, "It is believed that skinks are loosing their limbs because they spend most of their lives swimming through sand or soil; limbs are not only unnecessary for this, but may actually be a hindrance".

Skinner and his colleagues performed a genetic analysis of the lizards to investigate the pattern and rate of limb reduction, finding that evolution of a snake-like body form has occurred not only repeatedly but also very rapidly and without any evidence of reversals. Skinner said, "At the highest rate, complete loss of limbs is estimated to have occurred within 3.6 million years". Compared to similarly dramatic evolutionary changes in other animals, this is blisteringly fast.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by BMC Evolutionary Biology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Adam Skinner, Michael S Y Lee and Mark N Hutchinson. Rapid and repeated limb loss in a clade of scincid lizards. BMC Evolutionary Biology, (in press)

Cite This Page:

BMC Evolutionary Biology. "Limb Loss In Lizards: Evidence For Rapid Evolution." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 November 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081110223331.htm>.
BMC Evolutionary Biology. (2008, November 11). Limb Loss In Lizards: Evidence For Rapid Evolution. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081110223331.htm
BMC Evolutionary Biology. "Limb Loss In Lizards: Evidence For Rapid Evolution." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081110223331.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

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