Trophic specialization drives morphological evolution in sea snakes

Emma Sherratt, Arne Redsted Rasmussen, Kate L. Sanders

Publications: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Viviparous sea snakes are the most rapidly speciating reptiles
known, yet the ecological factors underlying this radiation
are poorly understood. Here, we reconstructed dated trees for
75% of sea snake species and quantified body shape (forebody
relative to hindbody girth), maximum body length and trophic
diversity to examine how dietary specialization has influenced
morphological diversification in this rapid radiation. We
show that sea snake body shape and size are strongly
correlated with the proportion of burrowing prey in the
diet. Specialist predators of burrowing eels have convergently
evolved a ‘microcephalic’ morphotype with dramatically
reduced forebody relative to hindbody girth and intermediate
body length. By comparison, snakes that predominantly feed
on burrowing gobies are generally short-bodied and smallheaded,
but there is no evidence of convergent evolution.
The eel specialists also exhibit faster rates of size and shape
evolution compared to all other sea snakes, including those that
feed on gobies. Our results suggest that trophic specialization
to particular burrowing prey (eels) has invoked strong selective
pressures that manifest as predictable and rapid morphological
changes. Further studies are needed to examine the genetic
and developmental mechanisms underlying these dramatic
morphological changes and assess their role in sea snake
speciation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Volume5
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2018

Artistic research

  • No

Cite this

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title = "Trophic specialization drives morphological evolution in sea snakes",
abstract = "Viviparous sea snakes are the most rapidly speciating reptilesknown, yet the ecological factors underlying this radiationare poorly understood. Here, we reconstructed dated trees for75{\%} of sea snake species and quantified body shape (forebodyrelative to hindbody girth), maximum body length and trophicdiversity to examine how dietary specialization has influencedmorphological diversification in this rapid radiation. Weshow that sea snake body shape and size are stronglycorrelated with the proportion of burrowing prey in thediet. Specialist predators of burrowing eels have convergentlyevolved a ‘microcephalic’ morphotype with dramaticallyreduced forebody relative to hindbody girth and intermediatebody length. By comparison, snakes that predominantly feedon burrowing gobies are generally short-bodied and smallheaded,but there is no evidence of convergent evolution.The eel specialists also exhibit faster rates of size and shapeevolution compared to all other sea snakes, including those thatfeed on gobies. Our results suggest that trophic specializationto particular burrowing prey (eels) has invoked strong selectivepressures that manifest as predictable and rapid morphologicalchanges. Further studies are needed to examine the geneticand developmental mechanisms underlying these dramaticmorphological changes and assess their role in sea snakespeciation.",
author = "Emma Sherratt and {Redsted Rasmussen}, Arne and Sanders, {Kate L.}",
year = "2018",
month = "2",
day = "26",
doi = "10.1098/rsos.172141",
language = "English",
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}

Trophic specialization drives morphological evolution in sea snakes. / Sherratt, Emma; Redsted Rasmussen, Arne; Sanders, Kate L.

In: Royal Society Open Science, Vol. 5, 26.02.2018, p. 1-10.

Publications: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Trophic specialization drives morphological evolution in sea snakes

AU - Sherratt, Emma

AU - Redsted Rasmussen, Arne

AU - Sanders, Kate L.

PY - 2018/2/26

Y1 - 2018/2/26

N2 - Viviparous sea snakes are the most rapidly speciating reptilesknown, yet the ecological factors underlying this radiationare poorly understood. Here, we reconstructed dated trees for75% of sea snake species and quantified body shape (forebodyrelative to hindbody girth), maximum body length and trophicdiversity to examine how dietary specialization has influencedmorphological diversification in this rapid radiation. Weshow that sea snake body shape and size are stronglycorrelated with the proportion of burrowing prey in thediet. Specialist predators of burrowing eels have convergentlyevolved a ‘microcephalic’ morphotype with dramaticallyreduced forebody relative to hindbody girth and intermediatebody length. By comparison, snakes that predominantly feedon burrowing gobies are generally short-bodied and smallheaded,but there is no evidence of convergent evolution.The eel specialists also exhibit faster rates of size and shapeevolution compared to all other sea snakes, including those thatfeed on gobies. Our results suggest that trophic specializationto particular burrowing prey (eels) has invoked strong selectivepressures that manifest as predictable and rapid morphologicalchanges. Further studies are needed to examine the geneticand developmental mechanisms underlying these dramaticmorphological changes and assess their role in sea snakespeciation.

AB - Viviparous sea snakes are the most rapidly speciating reptilesknown, yet the ecological factors underlying this radiationare poorly understood. Here, we reconstructed dated trees for75% of sea snake species and quantified body shape (forebodyrelative to hindbody girth), maximum body length and trophicdiversity to examine how dietary specialization has influencedmorphological diversification in this rapid radiation. Weshow that sea snake body shape and size are stronglycorrelated with the proportion of burrowing prey in thediet. Specialist predators of burrowing eels have convergentlyevolved a ‘microcephalic’ morphotype with dramaticallyreduced forebody relative to hindbody girth and intermediatebody length. By comparison, snakes that predominantly feedon burrowing gobies are generally short-bodied and smallheaded,but there is no evidence of convergent evolution.The eel specialists also exhibit faster rates of size and shapeevolution compared to all other sea snakes, including those thatfeed on gobies. Our results suggest that trophic specializationto particular burrowing prey (eels) has invoked strong selectivepressures that manifest as predictable and rapid morphologicalchanges. Further studies are needed to examine the geneticand developmental mechanisms underlying these dramaticmorphological changes and assess their role in sea snakespeciation.

UR - http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/5/3/172141

U2 - 10.1098/rsos.172141

DO - 10.1098/rsos.172141

M3 - Journal article

VL - 5

SP - 1

EP - 10

JO - Royal Society Open Science

JF - Royal Society Open Science

ER -