Effects of biotic and abiotic stressors on asymmetries and head size in two sympatric lizard species
Organisms face numerous environmental stressors, which can affect developmental precision, including symmetry of various physical characteristics. Fluctuating asymmetry (FA) has therefore been suggested as a simple and efficient tool for assessing sub-lethal stress levels. We analyzed FA in two sympatric lizard species (Iberolacerta horvathi and Podarcis muralis) to determine potential effects of interspecific competition and urbanization, as proxies of stress, taking into account sexual dimorphism and environmental conditions. We sampled 16 syntopic and allotopic populations and used geometric morphometrics of head morphology. We detected significant but mixed effects on the head asymmetry from the environment and the syntopic occurrence that differed between species. P. muralis lizards had more asymmetric heads at higher altitudes, while I. horvathi lizards did at mid altitudes, which may be explained by P. muralis experiencing environmental stress of colder conditions at higher altitudes. The mid-altitude effect on asymmetries in I. horvathi might be explained by a lower availability of stony walls and higher abundance of P. muralis, thus higher competition. The asymmetry of supraciliary granules was affected by the presence of other species. However, lizards from allotopic populations attained larger asymmetries compared to lizards from syntopic populations, which was the opposite from what was expected. There was no effect of urbanization in P. muralis, which could be due to relatively low pollution and habitat degradation in study locations. Overall, we highlighted the possibility of using lizards and FA for bioindication of environmental stressors and especially improved the knowledge gap in the research of biotic stressors.