Convergent body flattening in a clade of tropical rock-using lizards (Scincidae: Lygosominae)




The repeated occurrence of similar morphologies in organisms from similar habitats provides good evidence of convergent selection, and convergent patterns of evolutionary change. In lizards, a flattened morphology has often been noted; however, whether this trait is convergent in specific habitats has never been tested using phylogenetic methods. The present study examined patterns of morphological convergence in 18 species of tropical Lygosomine skinks from three broad habitat categories (generalist, leaf litter-dwelling, and rock-using species). In general, although there where relatively few morphological differences of species from different habitats, phylogenetic analyses revealed that rock-using species have consistently and repeatedly evolved a dorsoventrally flattened head and body. The adaptive basis of this flattened morphology is consistent with both biomechanical predictions of performance (e.g. climbing locomotion) and ecology (e.g. use of rock crevices, camouflage) of species that occupy rocky habitats. © 2008 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2008, 94, 399–411.