oa African Zoology - A model explaining patterns of geographic character variation in Cordylus cordylus (Reptilia; Cordylidae) in the south-western Cape, South Africa

Volume 23, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1562-7020
  • E-ISSN: 2224-073X



A model is proposed for the evolution of three morphotypes of the girdled lizard Cordylus cordylus (Linnaeus) in the south-western Cape. The available data are interpreted as indicating that a vicariant splitting of a warm-adapted ancestral population during the last glacial period occurred. Differential evolution of the two daughter populations in response to different environmental pressures resulted. One of the daughter populations remaining in the coastal lowlands to the west of the Cape Fold Mountains, became cold-adapted, an event which was followed by a rapid range expansion. The other daughter population to the south and east of the Cape Fold Mountains apparently experienced less severe climatic conditions, maintained a larger population size, and for these reasons remained warm-adapted. During the subsequent warmer, interglacial period the now cold-adapted daughter population was again fragmented into two populations. Of these, one is presently found along the south-western coast and the other along the higher peaks of the western section of the Cape Fold Mountains. On the other hand the amelioration of the climate during the interglacial allowed the warm-adapted daughter population to the south and east to expand its range, eventually penetrating into the areas formerly occupied by the cold-adapted populations. Subsequently zones of secondary contact were established. In the area under discussion similar patterns of contraction and expansion can be observed in other closely related species. Our data support the turnover-pulse hypothesis of Vrba (1985).

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