Evaluating the island effect on phenotypic evolution in the Italian wall lizard, Podarcis siculus (Reptilia: Lacertidae)
Islands are compelling natural laboratories for studying evolutionary processes. Nevertheless, the existence of general rules underlying morphological evolution on islands remains an unresolved issue. In this study, we investigated the insular phenotypic variability of the Italian wall lizard (Podarcis siculus) on a large geographical scale, in order to assess the putative existence of an island effect on three morphological head traits: shape, size and degree of sexual dimorphism. A geometric morphometric analysis was performed on 30 island and 24 mainland populations, involving a total of 992 specimens, and we analysed differences in both mean trait values and variances (disparity). We found increased shape disparity in insular lizards with respect to mainland ones. On the other hand, both size disparity and mean head dimensions of males decreased on islands, leading to a reduction in sexual dimorphism. Our results provide evidence for a multidirectional morphological diversification on islands concerning head shape of both sexes, while directional and canalizing selection likely occurred for head size, but only in males. Our findings improve our knowledge on the effect of insularity in Podarcis siculus, and highlight the need for an exstensive sampling scheme and a multi-trait methodological approach.