Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Scopus Web of Science® Altmetric
Type: Journal article
Title: Changes in ontogenetic patterns facilitate diversification in skull shape of Australian agamid lizards
Author: Gray, J.A.
Sherratt, E.
Hutchinson, M.
Jones, M.E.
Citation: BMC Evolutionary Biology, 2019; 19(7):1-10
Publisher: BioMed Central
Issue Date: 2019
ISSN: 1471-2148
Statement of
Jaimi A. Gray, Emma Sherratt, Mark N. Hutchinson and Marc E. H. Jones
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 shallow 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.
Keywords: Agamidae; evolutionary development; geometric morphometrics; lizards; ontogeny; skull
Rights: © The Author(s). 2019 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
RMID: 0030106562
DOI: 10.1186/s12862-018-1335-6
Grant ID:
Appears in Collections:Environment Institute publications

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat 
hdl_117819.pdfPublished version2.28 MBAdobe PDFView/Open

Items in DSpace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.