Sexual dimorphism in digit length ratios in two lizard species

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Abstract

Sexual dimorphism in digit length ratios has been reported for humans, a few other mammals, and two bird species. This dimorphism is thought to arise via an interaction between the prenatal exposure of the embryo to sex hormones and the Hox genes, which are highly conserved among vertebrates and control the development of both the appendices, including fingers and toes, and the urogenital system. In this study, we report on sexual dimorphism in 2D:3D, 2D:4D, and 3D:4D contralateral ratios of the forelimbs in two species of oviparous lizards, the common wall lizard (Podarcis muralis) and the tree skink (Mabuya planifrons), as measured on museum specimens. We found that male P. muralis had a larger 2D:4D ratio on both sides and larger 2D:3D ratio on the left side than females, whereas in M. planifrons, males had lower 2D:3D ratios than females on the left side. The two species show opposite patterns of sexual dimorphism in body size, males being larger than females in P. muralis, and the reverse in M. planifrons, suggesting that interspecific variation of sex differences in digit ratios could be associated with sex-specific growth trajectories. There was a limited evidence for directional asymmetry in digit ratios. Therefore, our findings provide the first evidence that digit ratios are sexually dimorphic in any reptile species and are consistent with the idea that the genetic link between limb development and the urogenital system had been established with the evolution of the earliest terrestrial tetrapods. Importantly, many lizard species with genetic sex determination, including the ones we studied, are oviparous and may represent valuable animal models for experimental tests of the association between prenatal exposure to androgens or estrogens and digit ratios. Anat Rec Part A, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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