Diving in head first: trade-offs between phenotypic traits and sand-diving predator escape strategy in Meroles desert lizards
Format Extent664641 bytes
MetadataShow full item record
Survival, in part, depends on an individual’s ability to evade predators. In desert regions some lizard species have evolved head-first sand-diving strategies to escape predators. To facilitate this behaviour, a distinctive head morphology that facilitates sand-diving has evolved. This specialised head morphology may, however, come at a cost to other ecologically relevant functions, particularly bite force. Here, we investigated the relationship between morphology and function in a southern African lacertid lizard genus, Meroles, which consists of eight species that utilise different escape strategies, including sand-diving and running for cover. It was hypothesized that the specialised head morphology of diving species would negatively affect bite force capacity. We found that species from each escape strategy category differed significantly in head shape, but not bite force performance. A phylogenetic tree of the genus was constructed using two mitochondrial and two nuclear genes, and we conducted phylogenetic comparative analyses. One aspect of the head shape differed between the escape strategies once phylogeny was taken into account. We found that bite force may have co-evolved with head morphology, but that there was no trade-off between biting capacity and escape strategy in Meroles.
- RESEARCH: Measey, J