The ZW sex microchromosomes of an Australian dragon lizard share no homology with those of other reptiles or birds Academic Article uri icon


  • Reptiles show a diverse array of sex chromosomal systems but, remarkably, the Z sex chromosomes of chicken are homologous to the ZW sex chromosomes of a species of gecko, Gekko hokouensis, suggesting an ancient but common origin. This is in contrast to the ZW sex chromosomes of snakes and a species of soft-shelled turtle, Pelodiscus sinensis, which are nonhomologous to those of chicken or each other and appear to have been independently derived. In this paper, we determine what homology, if any, the sex chromosomes of the Australian dragon lizard Pogona vitticeps shares with those of snake and chicken by mapping the dragon homologs of five snake Z chromosome genes (WAC, KLF6, TAX1BP1, RAB5A, and CTNNB1) and five chicken Z chromosome genes (ATP5A1, GHR, DMRT1, CHD1, and APTX) to chromosomes in the dragon. The dragon homologs of snake and chicken sex chromosome genes map to chromosomes 6 and chromosome 2, respectively, in the dragon and that DMRT1, the bird sex-determining gene, is not located on the sex chromosomes of P. vitticeps. Indeed, our data show that the dragon homolog to the chicken Z chromosome is likely to be wholly contained within chromosome 2 in P. vitticeps, which suggests that the sex-determining factor in P. vitticeps is not the sex-determining gene of chicken. Homology between chicken Z chromosome and G. hokouensis ZW chromosome pairs has been interpreted as retention of ancient ZW sex chromosomes in which case the nonhomologous sex chromosomes of snake and dragons would be independently derived. Our data add another case of independently derived sex chromosomes in a squamate reptile, which makes retention of ancient sex chromosome homology in the squamates less plausible. Alternatively, the conservation between the bird Z chromosome and the G. hokouensis ZW chromosomes pairs is coincidental, may be an example of convergent evolution, its status as the Z chromosome having been independently derived in birds and G. hokouensis.


  • Graves, Jenny
  • Ezaz, Tariq
  • Moritz, Benjamin
  • Waters, Paul
  • Marshall Graves, Jennifer A
  • Georges, Arthur
  • Sarre, Stephen D

publication date

  • December 2009