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Sequence variation in the melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) pigmentation gene and its role in the cryptic coloration of two South American sand lizards

DOI: 10.1590/S1415-47572012005000015

Keywords: adaptation, body color, crypsis, liolaemidae, pigmentation genes.

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Abstract:

in reptiles, dorsal body darkness often varies with substrate color or temperature environment, and is generally presumed to be an adaptation for crypsis or thermoregulation. however, the genetic basis of pigmentation is poorly known in this group. in this study we analyzed the coding region of the melanocortin-1-receptor (mc1r) gene, and therefore its role underlying the dorsal color variation in two sympatric species of sand lizards (liolaemus) that inhabit the southeastern coast of south america: l. occipitalis and l. arambarensis. the first is light-colored and occupies aeolic pale sand dunes, while the second is brownish and lives in a darker sandy habitat. we sequenced 630 base pairs of mc1r in both species. in total, 12 nucleotide polymorphisms were observed, and four amino acid replacement sites, but none of them could be associated with a color pattern. comparative analysis indicated that these taxa are monomorphic for amino acid sites that were previously identified as functionally important in other reptiles. thus, our results indicate that mc1r is not involved in the pigmentation pattern observed in liolaemus lizards. therefore, structural differences in other genes, such as asip, or variation in regulatory regions of mc1r may be responsible for this variation. alternatively, the phenotypic differences observed might be a consequence of non-genetic factors, such as thermoregulatory mechanisms.

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