[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 10-Nov-2008
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Contact: Graeme Baldwin
graeme.baldwin@biomedcentral.com
44-020-707-94804
BioMed Central

Limb loss in lizards -- evidence for rapid evolution

IMAGE: Lerista microtis.

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Small skink lizards, Lerista, demonstrate extensive changes in body shape over geologically brief periods. Research published in the open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology shows that several species of these skinks have rapidly evolved an elongate, limbless body form.

Skinks are a common sight in Australia and many species have limbs that are either reduced or missing entirely. According to the lead author of this study, Adam Skinner of The University of Adelaide, "It is believed that skinks are loosing their limbs because they spend most of their lives swimming through sand or soil; limbs are not only unnecessary for this, but may actually be a hindrance".

Skinner and his colleagues performed a genetic analysis of the lizards to investigate the pattern and rate of limb reduction, finding that evolution of a snake-like body form has occurred not only repeatedly but also very rapidly and without any evidence of reversals. Skinner said, "At the highest rate, complete loss of limbs is estimated to have occurred within 3.6 million years". Compared to similarly dramatic evolutionary changes in other animals, this is blisteringly fast.

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Notes to Editors

1. Rapid and repeated limb loss in a clade of scincid lizards
Adam Skinner, Michael S Y Lee and Mark N Hutchinson
BMC Evolutionary Biology (in press)

During embargo, article available here: http://www.biomedcentral.com/imedia/1769311212186689_article.pdf?random=479584
After the embargo, article available at journal website: http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcevolbiol/

Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.

Article citation and URL available on request at press@biomedcentral.com on the day of publication

2. Pictures are available here:
http://www.biomedcentral.com/graphics/email/images/general/lerista_punctovittata.jpg
http://www.biomedcentral.com/graphics/email/images/general/lerista_ameles.jpg
http://www.biomedcentral.com/graphics/email/images/general/lerista_microtis.jpg

3. BMC Evolutionary Biology is an open access journal publishing original peer-reviewed research articles in all aspects of molecular and non-molecular evolution of all organisms, as well as phylogenetics and palaeontology. BMC Evolutionary Biology (ISSN 1471-2148) is indexed/tracked/covered by PubMed, MEDLINE, BIOSIS, CAS, Zoological Record, Thomson Reuters (ISI) and Google Scholar. It has an impact factor of 4.09.

4. BioMed Central (http://www.biomedcentral.com/) is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Science+Business Media, a leading global publisher in the STM sector.



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