The evolution of viviparity within the Australian scincid lizardLerista bougainvillii



The semi-fossorial scincid lizard, Lerista bougainvillii, is oviparous throughout its extensive range in south-eastern mainland Australia. However, two widely separated (by approximately 1000 km) island populations are viviparous; in these populations the eggshell is lost and females retain their offspring in utero until embryogenesis complete. One mainland population in south-eastern Victoria shows an intermediate condition, in which the eggshells are incomplete and uterine embryogenesis is prolonged.

Morphological and electrophoretic analyses confirm a high degree of morphological and genetic similarity between populations (i.e. there is no evidence for the presence of more than one species), and phenetic analyses of these data show that each of the two disjunct viviparous populations more closely resembles adjacent oviparous populations than the other viviparous group. Hence, we infer that viviparity may have arisen twice within L. bougainvillii, in both cases on offshore islands with a cold climate.