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Insularity affects head morphology, bite force and diet in a Mediterranean lizard

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Abstract

Island environments differ with regard to numerous features from the mainland and may induce large-scale changes in most aspects of the biology of an organism. In this study, we explore the effect of insularity on the morphology and performance of the feeding apparatus, a system crucial for the survival of organisms. To this end, we examined the head morphology and feeding ecology of island and mainland populations of the Balkan green lizard, Lacerta trilineata. We predicted that head morphology, performance and diet composition would differ between sexes and habitats as a result of varying sexual and natural selection pressures. We employed geometric morphometrics to test for differences in head morphology, measured bite forces and analysed the diet of 154 adult lizards. Morphological analyses revealed significant differences between sexes and also between mainland and island populations. Relative to females, males had larger heads, a stronger bite and consumed harder prey than females. Moreover, island lizards differed in head shape, but not in head size, and, in the case of males, demonstrated a higher bite force. Islanders had a wider food niche breadth and included more plant material in their diet. Our findings suggest that insularity influences feeding ecology and, through selection on bite force, head morphology. © 2014 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2014, 112, 469–484.

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