On the congruence of morphology, trophic ecology, and phylogeny in Neotropical treeboas (Squamata: Boidae: Corallus)



Nine members of the Neotropical treeboa genus Corallus occur from Guatemala to south-eastern Brazil and recent studies have provided an inconclusive picture about the relationship between morphology and trophic ecology in these snakes. To construct a more complete picture, we conducted the first study of morphology and diet to consider all nine species. Using adult specimens from museum collections, we examined several morphometric and meristic variables and their possible relationship to Corallus diets. Broadly, we found three basic morphologies within the genus: a short, narrow head and a slender body (C. cookii, C. grenadensis, C. hortulanus, and C. ruschenbergerii), useful for exploiting a wide variety of prey; a relatively stout body with a long, wide head (C. batesii, C. caninus, and C. cropanii) associated with feeding on larger mammalian prey; and an intermediate morphology, found in C. annulatus and C. blombergii, which may be indicative of endotherm generalists. These morphological and dietary patterns exhibit a strong degree of congruence with a recent molecular phylogeny of Corallus and highlight a heretofore unexamined ecological diversification within Corallus. © 2013 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2013, 109, 466–475.