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Osteological variation is recorded among and within four of the most distinctive species of the Mexican salamander genus Chiropterotriton. Analysis of the data is consistent with the monophyletic status of the genus and documents previously unrecorded intraspecific and interspecific variation. Most of the recorded variation involves qualitative and quantitative proportional differences, but four fixed differences constitute autapomorphic states that affirm and diagnose some species (C. dimidiatus, C. magnipes). Osteological variation in 15 characters is analyzed with respect to predictions generated from four hypotheses: 1) phylogeny, 2) adaptation to specific habitats (the four species include cave-dwelling, terrestrial, and arboreal forms), 3) size-free shape, and 4) size. High levels of intraspecific variation suggest that the characters studied are not subject to rigid functional constraints in salamanders, regardless of size. The pattern predicted by the hypothesis based on size differences seen among these four Chiropterotriton species matches most closely the observed pattern of relative skull robustness. Since size change and heterochrony are often associated in plethodontid evolution, it is likely that changes in developmental timing play a role in the morphological transitions among these morphologically diverse taxa. Webbed feet, miniaturization, body shape, and an unusual tarsal arrangement are morphologies exhibited in species of Chiropterotrition that are shown to be homoplastic with other clades of tropical plethodontids. Although extensive homoplasy in salamanders might be seen as a roadblock to unraveling phylogenetic hypotheses, the homologous developmental systems that appear to underlie such homoplasy may reveal common and consistent evolutionary processes at work.
Darda DM, Wake DB (2015) Osteological Variation among Extreme Morphological Forms in the Mexican Salamander Genus Chiropterotriton (Amphibia: Plethodontidae): Morphological Evolution And Homoplasy. PLoS ONE 10(6): e0127248. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0127248
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© 2015 Darda, Wake