The genomic basis of rapid change in a functionally significant trait: osteoderm evolution in a girdled lizard. 01/11/2021 - 31/10/2025


The expression of osteoderms (bony deposits embedded in the dermal layer of skin in vertebrates) is thought to provide many adaptive functions, including protection against predators or sexual rivals, and aiding in thermo- and hydro-regulation. Cordyline lizards are a subfamily of Southern African lizards that exhibit substantial variation in this adaptive trait. Within this group, the Cape cliff lizard (Hemicordylus capensis) shows extensive intrecific variation. However, little is known about the evolutionary basis for this variation. This project aims to unravel the genomic basis of variation in osteoderm expression in this species, using an integrative approach that combines genomic and transcriptomic methods with phenotypic data. To this end, genetic material will be collected in the field, allowing me to assemble a reference genome for this species and produce genomic data from populations that differ in their environments. I will combine these data with phenotypic data to test for associations between genomic differentiation and phenotypic variation. Furthermore, I will collect and analyse transcriptomic data to test for differential gene expression associated with osteoderm expression variation. Overall, this project will shed light on the evolutionary basis of an ecologically important functional trait. The high-quality genomic resources to be produced will provide useful tools for the research community.


Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project