Fire Alters Patterns of Genetic Diversity Among 3 Lizard Species in Florida Scrub Habitat

Document Type


Publication Date



conservation, fire, Florida scrub, microsatellites

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)



The Florida Sand Skink (Plestiodon reynoldsi), the Florida Scrub Lizard (Sceloporus woodi), and the Six-lined Racerunner (Aspidoscelis sexlineata) occur in the threatened and fire-maintained Florida scrub habitat. Fire may have different consequences to local genetic diversity of these species because they each have different microhabitat preference. We collected tissue samples of each species from 3 sites with different time-since-fire: Florida Sand Skink n = 73, Florida Scrub Lizard n = 70, and Six-lined Racerunner n = 66. We compared the effect of fire on genetic diversity at microsatellite loci for each species. We screened 8 loci for the Florida Sand Skink, 6 loci for the Florida Scrub Lizard, and 6 loci for the Six-lined Racerunner. We also tested 2 potential driving mechanisms for the observed change in genetic diversity, a metapopulation source/sink model and a local demographic model. Genetic diversity varied with fire history, and significant genetic differentiation occurred among sites. The Florida Scrub Lizard had highest genetic variation at more recently burned sites, whereas the Florida Sand Skink and the Six-lined Racerunner had highest genetic variation at less recently burned sites. Habitat preferences of the Florida Sand Skink and the Florida Scrub Lizard may explain their discordant results, and the Six-lined Racerunner may have a more complicated genetic response to fire or is acted on at a different geographic scale than we have investigated. Our results indicate that these species may respond to fire in a more complicated manner than predicted by our metapopulation model or local demographic model. Our results show that the population-level responses in genetic diversity to fire are species-specific mandating conservation management of habitat diversity through a mosaic of burn frequencies.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

Journal of Heredity, v. 102, issue 4, p. 399-408