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The limits of convergence: the roles of phylogeny and dietary ecology in shaping non-avian amniote crania

Authors
  • Melstrom, Keegan M.
  • Angielczyk, Kenneth D.
  • Ritterbush, Kathleen A.
  • Irmis, Randall B.
Type
Published Article
Journal
Royal Society Open Science
Publisher
The Royal Society
Publication Date
Sep 15, 2021
Volume
8
Issue
9
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1098/rsos.202145
PMID: 34540239
PMCID: PMC8441121
Source
PubMed Central
Keywords
Disciplines
  • Research Articles
License
Unknown

Abstract

Cranial morphology is remarkably varied in living amniotes and the diversity of shapes is thought to correspond with feeding ecology, a relationship repeatedly demonstrated at smaller phylogenetic scales, but one that remains untested across amniote phylogeny. Using a combination of morphometric methods, we investigate the links between phylogenetic relationships, diet and skull shape in an expansive dataset of extant toothed amniotes: mammals, lepidosaurs and crocodylians. We find that both phylogeny and dietary ecology have statistically significant effects on cranial shape. The three major clades largely partition morphospace with limited overlap. Dietary generalists often occupy clade-specific central regions of morphospace. Some parallel changes in cranial shape occur in clades with distinct evolutionary histories but similar diets. However, members of a given clade often present distinct cranial shape solutions for a given diet, and the vast majority of species retain the unique aspects of their ancestral skull plan, underscoring the limits of morphological convergence due to ecology in amniotes. These data demonstrate that certain cranial shapes may provide functional advantages suited to particular dietary ecologies, but accounting for both phylogenetic history and ecology can provide a more nuanced approach to inferring the ecology and functional morphology of cryptic or extinct amniotes.

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