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Keywords:

  • environmental niche;
  • GIS;
  • morphology;
  • niche conservatism;
  • Phrynosoma lizards;
  • reptiles

Abstract

The prediction that variation in species morphology is related to environmental features has long been of interest to ecologists and evolutionary biologists. Many studies have demonstrated strong associations between morphological traits and local habitat characteristics, but few have considered the extent to which morphological traits may be associated with environmental features across broad geographic areas. Here, we use morphological, environmental and phylogenetic data compiled from Phrynosoma species to examine morphological and climatic variation across the geographic ranges of these species in an evolutionary context. We find significant phylogenetic signal in species’ environmental niches, but not in morphological traits. Furthermore, we demonstrate a significant correlation between species’ environmental niches and morphological traits when phylogenetic history is accounted for in the analysis. Our results suggest the importance of climatic variables in influencing morphological variation among species, and have implications for understanding how species distributions are constrained by environmental variation.