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Evolution. 2009 May;63(5):1279-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2009.00621.x. Epub 2009 Jan 14.

The evolution of body shape in response to habitat: is reproductive output reduced in flat lizards?

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  • 1School of Marine & Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville 4812, Queensland, Australia. Brett.Goodman@jcu.edu.au


Body size and shape are primary determinants of reproductive output in a variety of taxa, so selection favoring specific body sizes and shapes may, in turn, have a direct affect on reproductive output, and ultimately fitness. In reptiles, species that occupy rocky habitats are often flattened, a morphological character that aids locomotion and life on rocks, but which may constrain reproductive output by reducing the amount of abdominal space available to fill with eggs or offspring. Using 20 species of tropical skink from a wide range of habitats, we quantified habitat use, body height, body volume, and reproductive output, to determine whether the evolution of a flattened body was correlated with a reduction in abdominal volume, and, in turn, with reduced reproductive output. In this group of lizards, the occupation of rocky habitats has led (1) to the evolution of a flattened body, and this shift in body shape has (2) caused a reduction in abdominal volume. Despite this reduction in abdominal volume reproductive output was unaffected, as flatter species compensate by being more "full" of eggs. Thus, we demonstrate that morphological adaptation for enhanced performance in specific habitats did not cause a reduction in instantaneous reproductive output.

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