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Keywords:

  • Reptilia;
  • comparative and functional anatomy;
  • heterochrony;
  • vertebrae;
  • osteology

ABSTRACT

The comparative vertebral morphology of different chamaeleonid genera has been generally neglected and some aspects such as the comparative anatomy of the neck region remain poorly known. The atlas and axis of all chamaeleonid genera (Brookesia, Rieppeleon, Archaius, Rhampholeon, Nadzikambia, Bradypodion, Chamaeleo, Calumma, Furcifer, Kinyongia, and Trioceros) are studied here. Considerable morphological differences are revealed. Additionally, some taxa exhibit sexual dimorphism in the atlas and axis. An extremely long, divided posterodorsal process is present in males of the Trioceros johnstoni + Trioceros jacksonii clade. The solid and well-developed morphology of the posterodorsal process in males of this taxon could reflect its competitive behavior—males fight with their horns and attempt to dislodge one another from branches during encounters. An additional area of insertion for the cervical musculature may indicate an incremental cervical musculature mass and cross sectional area that can add extra support and stability to the head and assist during combat involving lateral pushing. This character is not present in females. Heterochronic processes have played a role in the evolution of chamaeleonids, as evidenced in many characters of the atlas–axis complex. A new hypothesis of an anterior shifting of synapophyses of the axis is erected and a new derived anatomical structure of the parietal of Chamaeleo calyptratus is described (the processus parietalis inferior). The presence of the processus parietalis inferior is associated with the evolution of the dorsally elevated parietal crest. Anat Rec, 297:369–396, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.