Evol Ecol Res 1: 785-805 (1999)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Evolutionary relationships between body shape and habitat use in lacertid lizards

Bieke Vanhooydonck and Raoul Van Damme

Department of Biology, University of Antwerp (UIA), Universiteitsplein 1, B-2610 Wilrijk, Belgium

Author to whom all correspondence should be addressed.
e-mail: vhooyd@uia.ua.ac.be


The aim of this study was to determine if divergence in habitat use among lacertid lizards is paralleled by morphological differentiation. For 35 lacertid species, we measured body, head and limb dimensions. Habitat use was inferred from the literature: ground-dwelling on open terrain, ground-dwelling in vegetated areas, shrub-climbing, tree-climbing, saxicolous (i.e. rock-climbing). Traditional (i.e. non-phylogenetic) statistical analyses suggest morphological differences among species groups with different habitat use. Ground-dwelling species from open habitats tend to have longer femurs, tibiae and humeri (relative to body length) than other groups. Cursorial (i.e. level-running) species have relatively high heads and trunks compared to climbing species. These differences follow biomechanical predictions and it is tempting to consider them as adaptations to habitat use. However, phylogenetic analyses of the data fail to establish a clear relationship between habitat use and morphology in the data set considered. There is a weak indication that the differences in head and trunk height have evolved as an adaptation to different habitat use, but the differences in relative limb dimensions among species groups with different habitat use vanish. Either adaptation of limb dimensions to habitat use has not occurred in lacertid lizards, or our methods are unable to demonstrate such an adaptation. We show that uncertainties in the topology of the phylogenetic tree used are unlikely to influence the outcome of our study. We also address the fact that habitat use is often similar in different branches of the phylogenetic tree, and the consequences this may have for the power of our statistical analyses.

Keywords: adaptation, ecomorphology, habitat use, Lacertidae, phylogenetic analysis.

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