Are there general laws for digit evolution in squamates?

The loss and re-evolution of digits in a clade of fossorial lizards (Brachymeles, Scincinae)

Günter P. Wagner, Oliver W. Griffith, Philip J. Bergmann, Gaelle Bello-Hellegouarch, Tiana Kohlsdorf, Anjan Bhullar, Cameron D. Siler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Evolutionary simplification of autopodial structures is a major theme in studies of body‐form evolution. Previous studies on amniotes have supported Morse's law, that is, that the first digit reduced is Digit I, followed by Digit V. Furthermore, the question of reversibility for evolutionary digit loss and its implications for “Dollo's law” remains controversial. Here, we provide an analysis of limb and digit evolution for the skink genus Brachymeles . Employing phylogenetic, morphological, osteological, and myological data, we (a) test the hypothesis that digits have re‐evolved, (b) describe patterns of morphological evolution, and (c) investigate whether patterns of digit loss are generalizable across taxa. We found strong statistical support for digit, but not limb re‐evolution. The feet of pentadactyl species of Brachymeles are very similar to those of outgroup species, while the hands of these lineages are modified (2‐3‐3‐3‐2) and a have a reduced set of intrinsic hand muscles. Digit number variation suggests a more labile Digit V than Digit I, contrary to Morse's law. The observed pattern of digit variation is different from that of other scincid lizards (Lerista , Hemiergis , Carlia ). Our results present the first evidence of clade‐specific modes of digit reduction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1104-1119
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Morphology
Volume279
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • ancestral state reconstruction
  • digit evolution
  • Dollo’s law
  • Morse’s law
  • reversible evolution
  • Dollo's law
  • Morse's law

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