Santa Cruz Good Times

Wednesday
Mar 04th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Rock-Paper-Lizard

blog_slug_LizardUCSC researchers use game to explain findings on speciation

What does the game of rock-paper-scissors have in common with speciation? More than you may think, according to a paper by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, published this week in the online early edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The idea that morphs within the same population could eventually evolve into separate species is not a particularly new one. But a study by researchers Barry Sinervo, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UCSC, and Ammon Corl, who led the new study as a graduate student at UCSC but is now a postdoctoral researcher at Uppsala University in Sweden, about side-blotched lizards finds new evidence to support the theory.

So where does rock-paper-scissors come into play? The side-blotched lizard has three morphs differing in color (orange-, blue-, and yellow-throated) and mating behavior. Previous work by Sinervo and his colleagues showed that competition among male side-blotched lizards resembles the game, in that each mating strategy beats and is beaten by one other strategy. Orange-throated males (we’ll call them rock) with their high testosterone and body mass can take territory from blue-throated males (scissors), allowing them to control large territories containing many females. Rock crushes scissors. Yellow-throated males (paper) mimic female behavior and coloration to sneak onto the large territories of orange males to mate with females. Paper covers rock. And blue-throated males cooperate with each other to defend territories and closely guard females, beating the yellow-throated males’ covert strategy. Scissors cut paper.

Using DNA analysis and studying numerous populations of the lizards over time, the researchers found that all three color morphs existed millions of years ago and have persisted in many populations, but some branches of the lizard family tree lost some of the color types over time. Sometimes the rock-paper-scissors game cycles on indefinitely while in other places it “collapses on one or two strategies and begins to create new species,” says Sinervo in a February UCSC press release.

Also in the press release, Corl uses the rock-paper-scissors analogy to explain other new evidence found in the study. “Imagine the three lizard morphs playing rock-paper-scissors,” Corl explains. "They have very specific adaptations for fighting one another. Now imagine that some morphs are lost, leaving a population of all rock morphs. Their adaptations for fighting the paper and scissors morphs are no longer useful. Therefore, rapid evolutionary change is expected in a population of rock morphs as they adapt to a new game in which they only fight other rock morphs."

The study showed clear evidence of very rapid evolution of body size when morphs are lost from a population. “Such rapid evolution could eventually cause populations to evolve into distinct species. We are the first group to provide a statistical test of this hypothesis,” Corl say in the press release.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Crop Circles

How the confusion over GMOs is undermining the organic movement

 

Two Fish Bound by a Golden Cord

Until March 20, (Spring Equinox), Earth and her kingdoms (mineral, plant, animal, human) experience the influence of Pisces, sign of the World Savior. Whereas the task of Aquarius is as world server, the Pisces task is saving the world—tasks given to the two fishes. Pisces never really enters matter, and as the last sign of the zodiac includes all the signs. During Pisces, having gathered all the gifts of the previous 11 signs, it is a good time to prepare for new initiating plans when Aries (sign of beginnings) begins. No wonder Pisces, like Scorpio, is so difficult (both are ruled by Pluto, planet of death, new life, regeneration, transformations). Both signs (with Scorpio drowning in dark and deep waters) find life on Earth a hardship, disorienting (from the spiritual perspective), at times feeling betrayed. Life is a paradox, especially for Pisces. Each zodiacal sign represents and distributes a different phase and facet (12) of the Soul’s diamond light, Pisces is the “Light of Life itself, ending forever the darkness of matter.” It takes two fish to complete this work (creating eventually an extraordinary human being). One fish turned toward the material world (in order to understand matter), the other fish toward the heavenly world. Around the two fish is a silvery cord binding them together. The two fish are forever bound until all of humanity is redeemed (lifted up into the Light). This is the dedication of all world saviors (Buddha, Christ, the NGWS). Thus the sacrifice and suffering experienced by Pisces. Knowing these things about Pisces, let us help them all we can. Sometimes all of humanity is Pisces.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Seal Change

Celtic selkie lore comes alive in dazzling ‘Song of the Sea’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

So Long, Louie’s

Louie’s Cajun Kitchen & Bourbon Bar closes, plus Back Porch pop-up, and 2015 Outstanding in the Field tour

 

What defines a good dive bar?

It’s slightly dirty, and they serve cheap drinks. Stella Celeste, Santa Cruz, Barrista

 

Picchetti Winery

After enjoying its contents, I couldn’t throw away the empty bottle of Picchetti Winery’s Red Table Wine.

 

Teresa’s Gourmet Foods

New owners for Santa Cruz’s leading local salsa company