Side-blotched lizards spend their year on earth looking to reproduce, and their strategies have lessons about evolution. An article in the May 9 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides the first genetic evidence of a trait that the animals recognize and use – even if that trait seems on the surface to be counterproductive.
“Cooperation is a tricky thing in terms of evolutionary theory,” said Andrew McAdam, an assistant professor of fisheries and wildlife and zoology at Michigan State University and one of the paper’s authors. “The question then is why do some organisms cooperate when it seems like being selfish should be the best strategy?”
Turns out, it’s all in the genes.
For two decades, Barry Sinervo from the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at University of California – Santa Cruz (the study’s lead author) has been studying side-blotched lizards of the Central Valley of California, funded by the National Science Foundation. Males break down into three throat colors, flagging different behaviors, which Sinervo has discovered follow “rock-paper-scissors” cycles of lizard lust.
Orange-throated lizards are the big bullies, roaming far from home to raid female territories and mate. They generally beat blue-throated lizards, the stay-at-home dad types. The blues stick close to home to protect females and have a buddy system. One blue-throat will do battle with the orange-throat, enabling his buddy stay fit and mate. McAdam explains that the altruistic blue-throat does this, even though as a result he will sire few, if any, offspring.
The yellow-throated lizards are sneakers – they casually sneak into female havens and mate without calling a lot of attention to themselves. Blues “beat” yellows because they’re close to home keeping watch. Yellows “beat” orange because the bullies aren’t sticking close enough to home to keep an eye on things.
Research has focused on why the blue throats are willing to cast aside their own opportunities to procreate for the benefit of a friend.
“Why not abandon them and become loners – why not go it alone?” McAdam said. “The blue throats can set up new territories and be successful. That’s the evolutionary puzzle that we needed to solve.”
Gene mapping revealed that the male blue-throats who buddied up are not even remotely related – yet still share many genes. Somehow, McAdam said, the altruistic lizards know they’re working to pass on their genes, even though their partners aren’t family. The tag-team approach does effectively thwart the orange-throat bullies, albeit at a personal cost.
The term “greenbeard” refers to an evolutionary term of a trait so obvious that others can recognize The greenbeard in this case, McAdam said, is more than just a blue throat. The mechanism of self identification could be smell, or possibly body language. The lizards have a head-bobbing action that might be signaling genetic simpatico.
Sue Nichols | EurekAlert!
Unique genome architectures after fertilisation in single-cell embryos
30.03.2017 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
Transport of molecular motors into cilia
28.03.2017 | Aarhus University
The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.
To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine
30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine
30.03.2017 | Medical Engineering