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Hox genes are recognized for their explanatory power of bilateral development. However, relatively little is known about natural variation in, and the evolutionary dynamics of, Hox genes within wild populations. Utilizing a natural population of sand lizards (Lacerta agilis), we screened HoxA13 for genetic variation and an association with incidence of offspring malformations. We found significant effects of parental genetic similarity and offspring sex, and their interaction, on risk of hatching malformed as an offspring. We also found within population genetic variation in HoxA13, and identified a significant effect of a three-way interaction among Hox genotype, parental genetic similarity, and offspring sex on the risk of hatching malformation. Since malformed offspring in this population do not survive to maturity, this study reveals complex and ongoing selection associated with Hox genes in a wild reptile population. Importantly, this demonstrates the utility of natural populations in unveiling microevolutionary processes shaping variation in highly conserved genes.

Original publication




Journal article


J Evol Biol

Publication Date





2520 - 2524


Animals, Base Sequence, Congenital Abnormalities, DNA Primers, Genetic Variation, Genetics, Population, Homeodomain Proteins, Likelihood Functions, Lizards, Logistic Models, Molecular Sequence Data, Selection, Genetic, Sequence Analysis, DNA, Sex Factors