Why does a trait evolve repeatedly within a clade? When examining the evolution of a trait, evolutionary biologists typically focus on the selective advantages it may confer and the genetic and developmental mechanisms that allow it to vary. Although these factors may be necessary to explain why a trait evolves in a particular instance, they may not be sufficient to explain phylogenetic patterns of repeated evolution or conservatism. Instead, other factors may also be important, such as biogeography and competitive interactions. In squamate reptiles (lizards and snakes) a dramatic transition in body form has occurred repeatedly, from a fully limbed, lizardlike body form to a limb-reduced, elongate, snakelike body form. We analyze this trait in a phylogenetic and biogeographic context to address why this transition occurred so frequently. We included 261 species for which morphometric data and molecular phylogenetic information were available. Among the included species, snakelike body form has evolved about 25 times. Most lineages of snakelike squamates belong to one of two “ecomorphs,” either short-tailed burrowers or long-tailed surface dwellers. The repeated origins of snakelike squamates appear to be associated with the in situ evolution of these two ecomorphs on different continental regions (including multiple origins of the burrowing morph within most continents), with very little dispersal of most limb-reduced lineages between continental regions. Overall, the number of repeated origins of snakelike morphology seems to depend on large-scale biogeographic patterns and community ecology, in addition to more traditional explanations (e.g., selection, development).
You have requested a machine translation of selected content from our databases. This functionality is provided solely for your convenience and is in no way intended to replace human translation. Neither BioOne nor the owners and publishers of the content make, and they explicitly disclaim, any express or implied representations or warranties of any kind, including, without limitation, representations and warranties as to the functionality of the translation feature or the accuracy or completeness of the translations.
Translations are not retained in our system. Your use of this feature and the translations is subject to all use restrictions contained in the Terms and Conditions of Use of the BioOne website.