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Lizard scales in an adaptive radiation: variation in scale number follows climatic and structural habitat diversity in Anolis lizards

By Johanna E. Wegener, Gabriel E. A. Gartner and Jonathan Losos


Lizard scales vary in size, shape and texture among and within species. The overall function of scales in squamates is attributed to protection against abrasion, solar radiation and water loss. We quantified scale number of Anolis lizards across a large sample of species (142 species) and examined whether this variation was related either to structural or climatic habitat diversity. We found that species in dry environments have fewer, larger scales than species in humid ones. This is consistent with the hypothesis that scales reduce evaporative water loss through the skin. In addition, scale number varied among groups of ecomorphs and was correlated with aspects of the structural microhabitat (i.e. perch height and perch diameter). This was unexpected because ecomorph groups are based on morphological features related to locomotion in different structural microhabitats. Body scales are not likely to play an important role in locomotion in Anolis lizards. The observed variation may relate to other features of the ecomorph niche and more work is needed to understand the putative adaptive basis of these patterns.Organismic and Evolutionary Biolog

Topics: comparative methods, ecomorphology, precipitation
Publisher: 'Wiley'
Year: 2016
DOI identifier: 10.1111/bij.12380.
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