Ecological correlates and evolutionary divergence in the skull of turtles: A geometric morphometric assessment

Ecological correlates and evolutionary divergence in the skull of turtles: A geometric morphometric assessment


English :
Resource use and phylogeny are often correlated with morphological variation. Moreover, because biological shapes are often complex and evolve depending on several internal constraints, they must be assessed using integrative methods. We analyzed the morphological variation of the turtle skull in the context of an adaptive radiation. Our focus are turtles of the superfamily Testudinoidea, which are remarkably diverse, both in number of species and in ecology. In this study, we depict morphological variation in the turtle skull in three dimensions with respect to diet, phylogeny, and habitat using modern geometric morphometrics. Our study revealed that morphological specialization was related to both diet and habitat. Morphological variation is decomposed in regard of both resource use (habitat and diet) and phylogeny. Feeding mode depending on environment was suggested as a key factor determining morphological evolution and diversification of turtle skulls. Diet (especially durophagy) leads to parallel morphologies in different clades. Phylogeny seemed to constrain only localized features of the skull and remained of minor influence, because overall morphotypes, closely correlated with ecological factors, occurred in both clades. In conclusion, the adaptive radiation of the Testudinoidea is revealed to demonstrate a clear relationship between the skull shape and life style.