Molecular marker suggests rapid changes of sex-determining mechanisms in Australian dragon lizards Academic Article uri icon


  • Distribution of sex-determining mechanisms across Australian agamids shows no clear phylogenetic segregation, suggesting multiple transitions between temperature-dependent (TSD) and genotypic sex determination (GSD). These taxa thus present an excellent opportunity for studying the evolution of sex chromosomes, and evolutionary transitions between TSD and GSD. Here we report the hybridization of a 3 kb genomic sequence (PvZW3) that marks the Z and W microchromosomes of the Australian central bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps) to chromosomes of 12 species of Australian agamids from eight genera using fluorescence in-situ hybridization (FISH). The probe hybridized to a single microchromosome pair in 11 of these species, but to the tip of the long arm of chromosome pair 2 in the twelfth (Physignathus lesueurii), indicating a micro-macro chromosome rearrangement. Three TSD species shared the marked microchromosome, implying that it is a conserved autosome in related species that determine sex by temperature. C-banding identified the marked microchromosome as the heterochromatic W chromosome in two of the three GSD species. However, in Ctenophorus fordi, the probe hybridized to a different microchromosome from that shown by C-banding to be the heterochromatic W, suggesting an independent origin for the ZW chromosome pair in that species. Given the haphazard distribution of GSD and TSD in this group and the existence of at least two sets of sex microchromosomes in GSD species, we conclude that sex-determining mechanisms in this family have evolved independently, multiple times in a short evolutionary period.


  • Graves, Jenny
  • Ezaz, Tariq
  • Quinn, Alexander E
  • Sarre, Stephen D
  • O’Meally, Denis
  • Georges, Arthur
  • Marshall Graves, Jennifer A

publication date

  • January 2009