Generation gland morphology in cordylid lizards: An evolutionary perspective



To elucidate the functional significance of the three distinct types of generation glands that have been identified among cordylid lizards, we mapped gland type to the terminal taxa in the most recent phylogenetic tree for the Cordylidae. We used the phylogenetic programme Mesquite and applied the principle of parsimony to infer character states for the ancestral nodes in the tree. For those species where information on gland type was not available from the literature, we conducted a histological investigation of generation gland morphology, using standard histological techniques. We included two species of the sister family Gerrhosauridae in the analysis to serve as outgroups. In both Gerrhosaurus typicus and G. flavigularis, scales immediately anterior to the femoral pores displayed glandular activity, but differed from generation glands of cordylids in the absence of mature glandular generations. Among the cordylids investigated, we identified a fourth type of generation gland in Pseudocordylus subviridis, P. spinosus, and in the two Hemicordylus species, one where the glands consistently comprise of two mature glandular generations. In H. capensis, both single- and two-layer type glands are present. Our reconstruction of ancestral character states suggests a minimum of six transformations from one gland type to another during the evolutionary history of the family. The reconstruction furthermore suggests that the single-layer type gland reappeared at least once (in Hemicordylus) in the Cordylinae after having been lost. The reconstruction also unequivocally shows that the pit-like multiple-layer type gland evolved directly from the single-layer type and not from the protruding multiple-layer type. The two-layer type gland appears to be an intermediary condition between the multiple-layer and single-layer types. The evolutionary transformation of generation gland type appears to be linked to changes in lifestyle and associated changes in degree of territoriality and the need for chemical communication. J. Morphol. 275:456–464, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.