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Genetics, morphology and diet of introduced populations of the ant-eating Texas Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum).


ABSTRACT: Introduced species can diverge from their source population when they become established in a new ecosystem. The Texas Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum) is native to the western United States (US) and was historically introduced to several locations in the southeastern US. We studied three introduced populations in South Carolina, US to determine if they exhibit dietary, morphological and genetic divergence from the native western US populations. We expected little divergence from western populations because P. cornutum is a specialist whose biology is largely shaped by its diet of Pogonomyrmex harvester ants. We show that the introduced populations have mixed ancestry between south Texas and more northern areas and experienced founder effects and genetic bottlenecks resulting in decreased genetic diversity. South Carolina lizards primarily consume ants (94%), but surprisingly, they did not eat harvester ants. Introduced lizards primarily eat Dorymyrmex ants, but each introduced population complements Dorymyrmex with significantly different amounts of other species of ants, insects and plant matter. Introduced populations have smaller body size and have different limb and head shapes compared to western populations. This study demonstrates successful persistence of an introduced vertebrate that may be attributed to phenotypic change, even in the face of reduced genetic diversity.

PROVIDER: S-EPMC6685972 | BioStudies |

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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