Genomic evidence for asymmetric introgression by sexual selection in the common wall lizard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Strongly selected characters can be transferred from one lineage to another with limited genetic exchange, resulting in asymmetric introgression and a mosaic genome in the receiving population. However, systems are rarely sufficiently well studied to link the pattern of introgression to its underlying process. Male common wall lizards in western Italy exhibit exaggeration of a suite of sexually selected characters that make them outcompete males from a distantly related lineage that lack these characters. This results in asymmetric hybridization and adaptive introgression of the suite of characters following secondary contact. We developed genomewide markers to infer the demographic history of gene flow between different genetic lineages, identify the spread of the sexually selected syndrome, and test the prediction that introgression should be asymmetric and heterogeneous across the genome. Our results show that secondary contact was accompanied by gene flow in both directions across most of the genome, but with approximately 3% of the genome showing highly asymmetric introgression in the predicted direction. Demographic simulations reveal that this asymmetric gene flow is more recent than the initial secondary contact, and the data suggest that the exaggerated male sexual characters originated within the Italian lineage and subsequently spread throughout this lineage before eventually reaching the contact zone. These results demonstrate that sexual selection can cause a suite of characters to spread throughout both closely and distantly related lineages with limited gene flow across the genome at large.


External organisations
  • University of Tasmania
  • University of Pavia
  • University of Pisa
  • University of L'Aquila
  • University of Oxford
  • Milan Natural History Museum
  • University of Porto
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Evolutionary Biology


  • asymmetric introgression, mosaic genome, Podarcis muralis, sexual selection
Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Ecology
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Sep 7
Publication categoryResearch