Intraspecific phylogeography of Lacerta vivipara and the evolution of viviparity

Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2001 Mar;18(3):449-59. doi: 10.1006/mpev.2000.0896.


The lacertid lizard Lacerta vivipara is one of the few squamate species with two reproductive modes. We present the intraspecific phylogeny obtained from neighbor-joining and maximum-parsimony analyses of the mtDNA cytochrome b sequences for 15 individuals from Slovenian oviparous populations, 34 individuals from western oviparous populations of southern France and northern Spain, 92 specimens from European and Russian viviparous populations, and 3 specimens of the viviparous subspecies L. v. pannonica. The phylogeny indicates that the evolutionary transition from oviparity to viviparity probably occurred once in L. vivipara. The western oviparous group from Spain and southern France is phylogenetically most closely related to the viviparous clade. However, the biarmed W chromosome characterizing the western viviparous populations is an apomorphic character, whereas the uniarmed W chromosome, existing both in the western oviparous populations and in the geographically distant eastern viviparous populations, is a plesiomorphic character. This suggests an eastern origin of viviparity. Various estimates suggest that the oviparous and viviparous clades of L. vivipara split during the Pleistocene. Our results are discussed in the framework of general evolutionary models: the concept of an oviparity-viviparity continuum in squamates, the cold climate model of selection for viviparity in squamates, and the contraction-expansion of ranges in the Pleistocene resulting in allopatric differentiation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Cytochrome b Group / genetics*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Europe
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Geography
  • Lizards / classification*
  • Lizards / genetics*
  • Lizards / physiology
  • Phylogeny*
  • Reproduction
  • Slovenia


  • Cytochrome b Group
  • DNA, Mitochondrial