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J Morphol. 2005 Jan;263(1):47-59.

Morphological evolution of the lizard skull: a geometric morphometrics survey.

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Committee on Evolutionary Biology, The University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.


Patterns of diversity among lizard skulls were studied from a morphological, phylogenetic, and functional perspective. A sample of 1,030 lizard skulls from 441 species in 17 families was used to create a lizard skull morphospace. This morphospace was combined with a phylogeny of lizard families to summarize general trends in the evolution of the lizard skull. A basal morphological split between the Iguania and Scleroglossa was observed. Iguanians are characterized by a short, high skull, with large areas of attachment for the external adductor musculature, relative to their sister group. The families of the Iguania appear to possess more intrafamilial morphological diversity than families of the Scleroglossa, but rarefaction of the data reveals this to be an artifact caused by the greater number of species represented in Iguanian families. Iguanian families also appear more dissimilar to one another than families of the Scleroglossa. Permutation tests indicate that this pattern is real and not due to the smaller number of families in the Iguanidae. Parallel and convergent evolution is observed among lizards with similar diets: ant and termite specialists, carnivores, and herbivores. However, these patterns are superimposed over the more general phylogenetic pattern of lizard skull diversity. This study has three central conclusions. Different clades of lizards show different patterns of disparity and divergence in patterns of morphospace occupation. Phylogeny imposes a primary signal upon which a secondary ecological signal is imprinted. Evolutionary patterns in skull metrics, taken with functional landmarks, allow testing of trends and the development of new hypotheses concerning both shape and biomechanics.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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