Restriction Site-Associated DNA Sequencing (RAD-seq) Reveals an Extraordinary Number of Transitions among Gecko Sex-Determining Systems

Mol Biol Evol. 2015 May;32(5):1296-309. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msv023. Epub 2015 Feb 4.


Sex chromosomes have evolved many times in animals and studying these replicate evolutionary "experiments" can help broaden our understanding of the general forces driving the origin and evolution of sex chromosomes. However this plan of study has been hindered by the inability to identify the sex chromosome systems in the large number of species with cryptic, homomorphic sex chromosomes. Restriction site-associated DNA sequencing (RAD-seq) is a critical enabling technology that can identify the sex chromosome systems in many species where traditional cytogenetic methods have failed. Using newly generated RAD-seq data from 12 gecko species, along with data from the literature, we reinterpret the evolution of sex-determining systems in lizards and snakes and test the hypothesis that sex chromosomes can routinely act as evolutionary traps. We uncovered between 17 and 25 transitions among gecko sex-determining systems. This is approximately one-half to two-thirds of the total number of transitions observed among all lizards and snakes. We find support for the hypothesis that sex chromosome systems can readily become trap-like and show that adding even a small number of species from understudied clades can greatly enhance hypothesis testing in a model-based phylogenetic framework. RAD-seq will undoubtedly prove useful in evaluating other species for male or female heterogamety, particularly the majority of fish, amphibian, and reptile species that lack visibly heteromorphic sex chromosomes, and will significantly accelerate the pace of biological discovery.

Keywords: evolution; lizard; phylogeny; reptile; sex chromosome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Female
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Lizards / genetics*
  • Lizards / physiology
  • Male
  • Phylogeny
  • Restriction Mapping
  • Sex Chromosomes / genetics
  • Sex Determination Processes*
  • Snakes / genetics
  • Snakes / physiology