Deakin University

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Attenuated phenotypic responses of lizard morphology to logging and fire-related forest disturbance

journal contribution
posted on 2020-08-18, 00:00 authored by Francesca Lyndon-Gee, Tim Jessop
Animals that face natural and human-mediated landscape disturbance processes can demonstrate different modalities of phenotypic variation to influence local population persistence. Differences in the frequency and pervasiveness of environmental variation can cause an individual’s phenotype to demonstrate either directional plasticity (i.e., environmental
matching), canalization, or increased trait variance. Furthermore, how important a trait’s influence is on fitness can further mediate the nature of phenotypic outcomes to environmental variation. We explored the effects of multi-decadal chronosequences of logging and fire-related forest disturbance on morphological variation of the generalist lizard species,
the Yellow-bellied water skink (Eulamprus heatwolei) in Southern Australia. There was evidence that both logging and fire-related disturbance could influence multiple elements of vegetation structure that would construe a major source of environmental variation for lizards. Nevertheless, neither logging nor fire-related disturbance effects resulted in significant differences in lizard morphological traits. However, there was evidence that years post-fire disturbance was associated with a modest but significant increase in a measure of lizard morphological variance. For the most part, we suggest that lizards exhibit canalization in their morphological responses to disturbance related environmental variation. In forests ecosystems with complex temporal and spatial regimes of environmental variation, canalization of lizard morphology could be expected to ensure phenotypic stability within or across generations to favor geometric, over arithmetic, fitness.



Evolutionary Ecology


Springer Netherlands


Dordrecht, The Netherlands







Publication classification

C Journal article; C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

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2020, Springer Nature