Fiber-type composition in the perivertebral musculature of lizards: Implications for the evolution of the diapsid trunk muscles


  • Sabine Moritz,

    1. Institute of Systematic Zoology and Evolutionary Biology, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Erbertstr 1, 07743 Jena, Germany
    2. Department for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912
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  • Nadja Schilling

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Systematic Zoology and Evolutionary Biology, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Erbertstr 1, 07743 Jena, Germany
    2. Small Animal Clinic, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation, Bünteweg 9, 30559 Hannover, Germany
    • Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover, Klinik für Kleintiere, Bünteweg 9, 30559 Hannover
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The perivertebral musculature of lizards is critical for the stabilization and the mobilization of the trunk during locomotion. Some trunk muscles are also involved in ventilation. This dual function of trunk muscles in locomotion and ventilation leads to a biomechanical conflict in many lizards and constrains their ability to breathe while running (“axial constraint”) which likely is reflected by their high anaerobic scope. Furthermore, different foraging and predator-escape strategies were shown to correlate with the metabolic profile of locomotor muscles in lizards. Because knowledge of muscle's fiber-type composition may help to reveal a muscle's functional properties, we investigated the distribution pattern of muscle fiber types in the perivertebral musculature in two small lizard species with a generalized body shape and subjected to the axial constraint (Dipsosaurus dorsalis, Acanthodactylus maculatus) and one species that circumvents the axial constraint by means of gular pumping (Varanus exanthematicus). Additionally, these species differ in their predator-escape and foraging behaviors. Using refined enzyme-histochemical protocols, muscle fiber types were differentiated in serial cross-sections through the trunk, maintaining the anatomical relationships between the skeleton and the musculature. The fiber composition in Dipsosaurus and Acanthodactylus showed a highly glycolytic profile, consistent with their intermittent locomotor style and reliance on anaerobic metabolism during activity. Because early representatives of diapsids resemble these two species in several postcranial characters, we suggest that this glycolytic profile represents the plesiomorphic condition for diapsids. In Varanus, we found a high proportion of oxidative fibers in all muscles, which is in accordance with its high aerobic scope and capability of sustained locomotion. J. Morphol., 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.