Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/2440/112060
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Type: Journal article
Title: Trophic specialization drives morphological evolution in sea snakes
Author: Sherratt, E.
Rasmussen, A.
Sanders, K.
Citation: Royal Society Open Science, 2018; 5(3):172141-1-172141-8
Publisher: Royal Society Publishing
Issue Date: 2018
ISSN: 2054-5703
2054-5703
Statement of
Responsibility: 
Emma Sherratt, Arne R. Rasmussen and Kate L. Sanders
Abstract: Viviparous sea snakes are the most rapidly speciating reptiles known, yet the ecological factors underlying this radiation are poorly understood. Here, we reconstructed dated trees for 75% of sea snake species and quantified body shape (forebody relative to hindbody girth), maximum body length and trophic diversity to examine how dietary specialization has influenced morphological diversification in this rapid radiation. We show that sea snake body shape and size are strongly correlated with the proportion of burrowing prey in the diet. Specialist predators of burrowing eels have convergently evolved a ‘microcephalic’ morphotype with dramatically reduced forebody relative to hindbody girth and intermediate body length. By comparison, snakes that predominantly feed on burrowing gobies are generally short-bodied and small-headed, but there is no evidence of convergent evolution. The eel specialists also exhibit faster rates of size and shape evolution compared to all other sea snakes, including those that feed on gobies. Our results suggest that trophic specialization to particular burrowing prey (eels) has invoked strong selective pressures that manifest as predictable and rapid morphological changes. Further studies are needed to examine the genetic and developmental mechanisms underlying these dramatic morphological changes and assess their role in sea snake speciation.
Keywords: Tempo and mode; ecomorphology; evolutionary rates; convergence; phenotypic evolution
Rights: © 2018 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.
RMID: 0030084897
DOI: 10.1098/rsos.172141
Grant ID: http://purl.org/au-research/grants/arc/FT130101965
Published version: http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/
Appears in Collections:Zoology publications

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