Extensive introgression and mosaic genomes of Mediterranean endemic lizards

Weizhao Yang, Nathalie Feiner, Catarina Pinho, Geoffrey M. While, Antigoni Kaliontzopoulou, D. James Harris, Daniele Salvi, Tobias Uller

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The Mediterranean basin is a hotspot of biodiversity, fuelled by climatic oscillation and geological change over the past 20 million years. Wall lizards of the genus Podarcis are among the most abundant, diverse, and conspicuous Mediterranean fauna. Here, we unravel the remarkably entangled evolutionary history of wall lizards by sequencing genomes of 34 major lineages covering 26 species. We demonstrate an early (>11 MYA) separation into two clades centred on the Iberian and Balkan Peninsulas, and two clades of Mediterranean island endemics. Diversification within these clades was pronounced between 6.5–4.0 MYA, a period spanning the Messinian Salinity Crisis, during which the Mediterranean Sea nearly dried up before rapidly refilling. However, genetic exchange between lineages has been a pervasive feature throughout the entire history of wall lizards. This has resulted in a highly reticulated pattern of evolution across the group, characterised by mosaic genomes with major contributions from two or more parental taxa. These hybrid lineages gave rise to several of the extant species that are endemic to Mediterranean islands. The mosaic genomes of island endemics may have promoted their extraordinary adaptability and striking diversity in body size, shape and colouration, which have puzzled biologists for centuries.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number2762
    JournalNature Communications
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2021

    Subject classification (UKÄ)

    • Evolutionary Biology


    Dive into the research topics of 'Extensive introgression and mosaic genomes of Mediterranean endemic lizards'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this