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Evidence of body size and shape stasis driven by selection in Patagonian lizards of the Phymaturus patagonicus clade (Squamata: Liolaemini)

González Marín, Andrea, Olave, Melisa, Avila, Luciano J., Sites, Jack W., Morando, Mariana
Molecular phylogenetics and evolution 2018 v.129 pp. 226-241
Squamata, body size, dry environmental conditions, head, lizards, microhabitats, models, phenotype, reproduction
During the speciation process sibling lineages accumulate differences in time (e.g. genetic, morphological, and/or ecological). Phenotypic traits such as size or shape, however, could experience rapid changes or show stasis depending on their role in survival and reproduction. The clade Phymaturus patagonicus includes 26 species characterized by a conservative morphology, and all inhabit rock crevice microhabitats in arid environments. In this study we quantify levels of morphological divergence (size and shape) among the multiple species relative to interspecific molecular divergence, and show that most species have not diverged significantly in size and/or shape to permit unambiguous species diagnosis with morphological data alone. The influence of stabilizing selection for an adaptive optimum in body size and head shape was detected for 13 of the 16 variables analyzed in an Ornstein-Uhlenbeck model. The strict dependence of these species to rock-crevice microenvironments likely explains the observed morphological stasis across the many species of the Phymaturus patagonicus group.