We investigated the evolution of anuran locomotor performance and its morphological correlates as a function of habitat use and lifestyles. We reanalysed a subset of the data reported by Zug (Smithson. Contrib. Zool. 1978; 276: 1–31) employing phylogenetically explicit statistical methods (n = 56 species), and assembled morphological data on the ratio between hind‐limb length and snout‐vent length (SVL) from the literature and museum specimens for a large subgroup of the species from the original paper (n = 43 species). Analyses using independent contrasts revealed that classifying anurans into terrestrial, semi‐aquatic, and arboreal categories cannot distinguish between the effects of phylogeny and ecological diversification in anuran locomotor performance. However, a more refined classification subdividing terrestrial species into ‘fossorials’ and ‘non‐fossorials’, and arboreal species into ‘open canopy’, ‘low canopy’ and ‘high canopy’, suggests that part of the variation in locomotor performance and in hind‐limb morphology can be attributed to ecological diversification. In particular, fossorial species had significantly lower jumping performances and shorter hind limbs than other species after controlling for SVL, illustrating how the trade‐off between burrowing efficiency and jumping performance has resulted in morphological specialization in this group.
Different components of complex integrated systems may be specialized for different functions, and thus the selective pressures acting on the system as a whole may be conflicting and can ultimately constrain organismal performance and evolution. The vertebrate cranial system is one of the most striking examples of a complex system with several possible functions, being associated to activities as different as locomotion, prey capture, display and defensive behaviours. Therefore, selective pressures on the cranial system as a whole are possibly complex and may be conflicting. The present study focuses on the influence of potentially conflicting selective pressures (diet vs. locomotion) on the evolution of head shape in Tropidurinae lizards. For example, the expected adaptations leading to flat heads and bodies in species living on vertical structures may conflict with the need for improved bite performance associated with the inclusion of hard or tough prey into the diet, a common phenomenon in Tropidurinae lizards. Body size and six variables describing head shape were quantified in preserved specimens of 23 species, and information on diet and substrate usage was obtained from the literature. No phylogenetic signal was observed in the morphological data at any branch length tested, suggesting adaptive evolution of head shape in Tropidurinae. This pattern was confirmed by both factor analysis and independent contrast analysis, which suggested adaptive co‐variation between the head shape and the inclusion of hard prey into the diet. In contrast to our expectations, habitat use did not constrain or drive head shape evolution in the group.
Variation in squamate foot morphology is likely relevant during evolutionary processes of habitat colonization because distinct surfaces differ in energetic and functional demands for locomotion. We combined new foot morphological data with published information of limb and tail lengths to investigate evolutionary changes possibly associated with the differential usage of ecological settings by Tropidurinae species. Several traits exhibited significant phylogenetic signal, and we performed conventional and phylogenetic regressions of PC scores (retained from Principal Components Analyses of morphometric traits) on continuous ecological indices. Tropidurines from sandy habitats exhibit larger foot soles, opposite to the evolution of narrow feet in species that use branches and rocks. Also, species that usually move along trunks present longer femora. This study provides evidence for morphological adaptations associated with substrate usage in Tropidurinae, and suggests that opposite morphological profiles might evolve associated with the use of surfaces energetically and functionally contrasting, possibly leading to trade-offs.
The evolution of elongated body shapes in vertebrates has intrigued biologists for decades and is particularly recurrent among squamates. Several aspects might explain how the environment influences the evolution of body elongation, but climate needs to be incorporated in this scenario to evaluate how it contributes to morphological evolution. Climatic parameters include temperature and precipitation, two variables that likely influence environmental characteristics, including soil texture and substrate coverage, which may define the selective pressures acting during the evolution of morphology. Due to development of geographic information system (GIS) techniques, these variables can now be included in evolutionary biology studies and were used in the present study to test for associations between variation in body shape and climate in the tropical lizard family Gymnophthalmidae. We first investigated how the morphological traits that define body shape are correlated in these lizards and then tested for associations between a descriptor of body elongation and climate. Our analyses revealed that the evolution of body elongation in Gymnophthalmidae involved concomitant changes in different morphological traits: trunk elongation was coupled with limb shortening and a reduction in body diameter, and the gradual variation along this axis was illustrated by less-elongated morphologies exhibiting shorter trunks and longer limbs. The variation identified in Gymnophthalmidae body shape was associated with climate, with the species from more arid environments usually being more elongated. Aridity is associated with high temperatures and low precipitation, which affect additional environmental features, including the habitat structure. This feature may influence the evolution of body shape because contrasting environments likely impose distinct demands for organismal performance in several activities, such as locomotion and thermoregulation. The present study establishes a connection between morphology and a broader natural component, climate, and introduces new questions about the spatial distribution of morphological variation among squamates.
Muscles, bones, and tendons in the adult tetrapod limb are intimately integrated, both spatially and functionally. However, muscle and bone evolution do not always occur hand in hand. We asked, how does the loss of limb bones affect limb muscle anatomy, and do these effects vary among different lineages? To answer these questions, we compared limb muscular and skeletal anatomy among gymnophthalmid lizards, which exhibit a remarkable variation in limb morphology and different grades of digit and limb reduction. We mapped the characters onto a phylogeny of the group to assess the likelihood that they were acquired independently. Our results reveal patterns of reduction of muscle and bone elements that did not always coincide and examples of both, convergent and lineage-specific non-pentadactyl musculoskeletal morphologies. Among lineages in which non-pentadactyly evolved independently, the degree of convergence seems to depend on the number of digits still present. Most tetradactyl and tridactyl limbs exhibited profound differences in pattern and degree of muscle loss/reduction, and recognizable morphological convergence occurred only in extremely reduced morphologies (e.g., spike-like appendix). We also found examples of muscles that persisted although the bones to which they plesiomorphically attach had been lost, and examples of muscles that had been lost although their normal bony attachments persisted. Our results demonstrate that muscle anatomy in reduced limbs cannot be predicted from bone anatomy alone, meaning that filling the gap between osteological and myological data is an important step toward understanding this recurrent phenomenon in the evolution of tetrapods.
High-quality genomic resources facilitate population-level and species-level comparisons to answer questions about behavioral ecology, morphological and physiological adaptations, as well as the evolution of genomic architecture. Squamate reptiles (lizards and snakes) are particularly diverse in characteristics that have intrigued evolutionary biologists, but high-quality genomic resources for squamates are relatively sparse. Lizards in the genus Sceloporus have a long history as important ecological, evolutionary, and physiological models, making them a valuable target for the development of genomic resources. We present a high-quality chromosome-level reference genome assembly, SceUnd1.0, (utilizing 10X Genomics Chromium, HiC, and PacBio data) and tissue/developmental stage transcriptomes for the Eastern Fence Lizard, Sceloporus undulatus. We performed synteny analysis with other available squamate chromosome-level assemblies to identify broad patterns of chromosome evolution including the fusion of micro- and macrochromosomes in S. undulatus. Using this new S. undulatus genome assembly we conducted reference-based assemblies for 34 other Sceloporus species to improve draft nuclear genomes assemblies from 1% coverage to 43% coverage on average. Across these species, typically >90% of reads mapped for species within 20 million years divergence from S. undulatus, this dropped to 75% reads mapped for species at 35 million years divergence. Finally we use RNAseq and whole genome resequencing data to compare the three assemblies as references, each representing an increased level of sequencing, cost and assembly efforts: Supernova Assembly with data from10X Genomics Chromium library; HiRise Assembly that added data from HiC library; and PBJelly Assembly that added data from PacBio sequencing. We found that the Supernova Assembly contained the full genome and was a suitable reference for RNAseq, but the chromosome-level scaffolds provided by the addition of the HiC data allowed the reference to be used for other whole genome analysis, including synteny and whole genome association mapping analyses. The addition of PacBio data provided negligible gains. Overall, these new genomic resources provide valuable tools for advanced molecular analysis of an organism that has become a model in physiology and evolutionary ecology.
Realizar esse trabalho só se tornou possível graças à colaboração e ao incentivo de muitas pessoas. A elas, agradeço e com elas, divido a alegria de concluir este trabalho. À Tiana, pela orientação, entusiasmo e confiança, pelas oportunidades, pela amizade, e pelo que ainda virá. Por fazer as histórias terem pé e cabeça! À FAPESP, pelo financiamento desse projeto (processo 2007/52204-8).À professora Márcia Bitondi, coordenadora do Programa de Pós-graduação em Biologia Comparada da FFCLRP-USP, pelo apoio que foi imprescindível em muitos momentos.Aos professores Dalton de Souza Amorim e Elisabeth Spinelli de Oliveira, da FFCLRP-USP, por cederem o espaço que abrigou boa parte dos experimentos realizados.Aos professores Maria Helena Goldman e Fernando Mantelatto, da FFCLRP-USP, pelas portas abertas de seus laboratórios, e a todos os seus alunos, pelas inúmeras gentilezas. Em especial, agradeço a Andréa Quiapim pelos sequenciamentos que serão usados em breve.Ao professor Miguel Rodrigues, do Instituto de Biociências (IB-USP), pelas comunicações pessoais, pelos materiais cedidos e pelo incentivo, todos muito importantes para esse trabalho.Ao professor Guarino Colli, do Instituto de Ciências Biológicas da Universidade de Brasília (ICB-UNB), pelas comunicações pessoais que foram muito importantes para esse trabalho.Ao professor Hussam Zaher, diretor do Museu de Zoologia da USP (MZUSP) e responsável pela Seção de Herpetologia, e à Carolina Castro-Mello, gerente de coleções, por facilitarem a maior parte da coleta de dados.Ao professor Mario de Pinna, responsável pela Seção de Ictiologia do MZUSP, pelo empréstimo do equipamento de radiografia, e ao Eduardo Baena, pela paciência e pelas ótimas imagens.Ao professor Silvio Moure Cícero, do Departamento de Produção Vegetal da ESALQ-USP, pelo empréstimo do equipamento de radiografia, e ao aluno Francisco Guilhien, pelas dicas.Ao pessoal do Departamento de Imagem do Hospital das Clínicas de Ribeirão Preto, pela digitalização de parte das radiografias.Um abraço aos professores Carlos A. Navas, do IB-USP, e Fernando R. Gomes, da UNESP de Rio Claro, com os quais tive o prazer de conviver e colaborar.À querida doutoranda Renata Brandt Nunes, pela força, pelas discussões e pela amizade de longa data, e ao doutorando Agustín Camacho, pelo empréstimo de animais e pelas discussões.
Developmental processes and their results, morphological characters, are inherited through transmission of genes regulating development. While there is ample evidence that cis-regulatory elements tend to be modular, with sequence segments dedicated to different roles, the situation for proteins is less clear, being particularly complex for transcription factors with multiple functions. Some motifs mediating protein-protein interactions may be exclusive to particular developmental roles, but it is also possible that motifs are mostly shared among different processes. Here we focus on HoxA13, a protein essential for limb development. We asked whether the HoxA13 amino acid sequence evolved similarly in three limbless clades: Gymnophiona, Amphisbaenia and Serpentes. We explored variation in ω (dN/dS) using a maximum-likelihood framework and HoxA13sequences from 47 species. Comparisons of evolutionary models provided low ω global values and no evidence that HoxA13 experienced relaxed selection in limbless clades. Branch-site models failed to detect evidence for positive selection acting on any site along branches of Amphisbaena and Gymnophiona, while three sites were identified in Serpentes. Examination of alignments did not reveal consistent sequence differences between limbed and limbless species. We conclude that HoxA13 has no modules exclusive to limb development, which may be explained by its involvement in multiple developmental processes.
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