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Does large body size relax constraints on bite-force generation in lizards of the genus Uromastyx?

Authors

  • A. Herrel,

    Corresponding author
    1. Département d'Ecologie et de Gestion de la Biodiversité, UMR 7179 C.N.R.S/M.N.H.N., Paris, France
    • Correspondence

      Anthony Herrel, UMR 7179 C.N.R.S/M.N.H.N., Département d'Ecologie et de Gestion de la Biodiversité, 57 rue Cuvier, CP 55, 75231 Paris Cedex 5, France. Tel: ++33-140798120; Fax: ++33-140793773

      E-mail: anthony.herrel@mnhn.fr

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  • A. M. Castilla,

    1. Department of Biodiversity, Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI), Qatar Foundation, Education City, Doha, Qatar
    2. Forest Sciences Centre of Catalonia (CTFC), Solsona, Catalonia, Spain
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  • M. K. Al-Sulaiti,

    1. Department of Biodiversity, Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI), Qatar Foundation, Education City, Doha, Qatar
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  • J. J. Wessels

    1. Industrial Cities Directorate, Qatar Petroleum, Qatar
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  • Editor: Andrew Kitchener

Abstract

The evolution of large body size has often been considered a key trait allowing the evolution of herbivory in lizards. Although many omnivorous lizards appear unspecialized, they typically show high bite forces, allowing them to reduce tough and fibrous plant matter. In contrast, true herbivores often show a suite of morphological and physiological specializations, allowing them to efficiently process and assimilate plant material. Moreover, many specialized herbivores have a large body size, thus likely relaxing constraints on bite-force generation given that bite force increases with increasing body mass. In this study, we test whether large herbivorous lizards of the genus Uromastyx have relatively lower bite forces for their body size compared with a medium-sized congener. No differences in bite force or head dimensions were observed between the two species or between both sexes in our sample. Moreover, bite force scaled with positive allometry relative to jaw length, suggesting that larger animals have disproportionately large bite forces. This suggests that even in the largest species, constraints on bite-force generation are still strong, possibly due to the demands imposed on the jaw system by the mechanical properties of the diet.

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