Skip to main content

Data from: Spatial and temporal drivers of phenotypic diversity in polymorphic snakes


Cox, Christian L.; Davis Rabosky, Alison R. (2013), Data from: Spatial and temporal drivers of phenotypic diversity in polymorphic snakes, Dryad, Dataset,


Color polymorphism in natural populations presents an ideal opportunity to study the evolutionary drivers of phenotypic diversity. Systems with striking spatial, temporal, and qualitative variation in color can be leveraged to study the mechanisms promoting the distribution of different types of variation in nature. We used the highly polymorphic ground snake (Sonora semiannulata), a putative coral snake mimic with both cryptic and conspicuous morphs, to compare patterns of neutral genetic variation and variation over space and time in color polymorphism to investigate the mechanistic drivers of phenotypic variation across scales. We found that strong selection promotes color polymorphism across spatial and temporal scales, with morph frequencies differing markedly between juvenile and adult age classes within a single population, oscillating over time within multiple populations, and varying drastically over the landscape despite minimal population genetic structure. However, we found no evidence that conspicuousness of morphs was related to which color pattern was favored by selection or to any geographic factors, including sympatry with coral snakes. We suggest that complex patterns of phenotypic variation in polymorphic systems may be a fundamental outcome of the conspicuousness of morphs and that explicit tests of temporal and geographic variation are critical to the interpretation of conspicuousness and mimicry.

Usage notes


North America