Project 3110: J. A. Gray, E. Sherratt, M. N. Hutchinson, M. E. Jones. 2019. Changes in ontogenetic patterns facilitate diversification in skull shape of Australian agamid lizards. BMC Evolutionary Biology. 19 (1):7.
Specimen: Amphibolurus muricatus (AA66262)
View: lateral

Abstract

Background: Morphological diversity among closely related animals can be the result of differing growth patterns. The Australian radiation of agamid lizards (Amphibolurinae) exhibits great ecological and morphological diversity, which they have achieved on a continent-wide scale, in a relatively short period of time (30 million years). Amphibolurines therefore make an ideal study group for examining ontogenetic allometry. We used two-dimensional landmark-based geometric morphometric methods to characterise the postnatal growth patterns in cranial shape of 18 species of amphibolurine lizards and investigate the associations between cranial morphology, and life habit and phylogeny.
Results: For most amphibolurine species, juveniles share a similar cranial phenotype, but by adulthood crania are more disparate in shape and occupy different sub-spaces of the total shape space. To achieve this disparity, crania do not follow a common post-natal growth pattern; there are differences among species in both the direction and magnitude of change in morphospace. We found that these growth patterns among the amphibolurines are significantly associated with ecological life habits. The clade Ctenophorus includes species that undergo small magnitudes of shape change during growth. They have dorsoventrally deep, blunt-snouted skulls (associated with terrestrial lifestyles), and also dorsoventrally flat skulls (associated with saxicolous lifestyles). The sister clade to Ctenophorus, which includes the bearded dragon (Pogona), frill-neck lizard (Chlamydosaurus), and long-nosed dragon (Gowidon), exhibit broad and robust post-orbital regions and differing snout lengths (mainly associated with scansorial lifestyles).
Conclusions: Australian agamids show great variability in the timing of development and divergence of growth trajectories which results in a diversity of adult cranial shapes. Phylogenetic signal in cranial morphology appears to be largely overwritten by signals that reflect life habit. This knowledge about growth patterns and skull shape diversity in agamid lizards will be valuable for placing phylogenetic, functional and ecological studies in a morphological context.


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Article DOI: 10.1186/s12862-018-1335-6

Project DOI: 10.7934/P3110, http://dx.doi.org/10.7934/P3110
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    Authors' Institutions

    • Natural History Museum, London

    • University of Adelaide

    • South Australian Museum



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    Jaimi Gray
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