Chemical signaling glands are unlinked to species diversification in lizards

Gopal Murali, Shai Meiri, Uri Roll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Sexual selection has long been thought to increase species diversification. Sexually selected traits, such as sexual signals that contribute to reproductive isolation, were thought to promote diversification. However, studies exploring links between sexually selected traits and species diversification have thus far primarily focused on visual or acoustic signals. Many animals often employ chemical signals (i.e., pheromones) for sexual communications, but large-scale analyses on the role of chemical communications in driving species diversification have been missing. Here, for the first time, we investigate whether traits associated with chemical communications-the presence of follicular epidermal glands-promote diversification across 6,672 lizard species. In most analyses, we found no strong association between the presence of follicular epidermal glands and species diversification rates, either across all lizard species or at lower phylogenetic scales. Previous studies suggest that follicular gland secretions act as species recognition signals that prevent hybridization during speciation in lizards. However, we show that geographic range overlap was no different in sibling species pairs with and without follicular epidermal glands. Together, these results imply that either follicular epidermal glands do not primarily function in sexual communications or sexually selected traits in general (here chemical communication) have a limited effect on species diversification. In our additional analysis accounting for sex-specific differences in glands, we again found no detectable effect of follicular epidermal glands on species diversification rates. Thus, our study challenges the general role of sexually selected traits in broad-scale species diversification patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1829-1841
Number of pages13
JournalEvolution; international journal of organic evolution
Issue number8
StatePublished - 27 Jul 2023


  • chemical communication
  • femoral pores
  • follicular epidermal glands
  • pheromones
  • sexual selection
  • speciation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Genetics
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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