Burrowing squamates have highly modified skulls for head-first burrowing, but studies of variation within burrowers are limited. I investigated skull morphology of African skinks in Acontias, Typhlosaurus, Scelotes, Sepsina, Feylinia, Typhlacontias, and Mochlus (39 sp.) representing multiple independent derivations of burrowing. I used computed tomography scans and geometric morphometrics to test the relationship between skull shape and phylogeny, size, substrate, and degree of limb reduction. There was a strong relationship between phylogenetic history and morphology, with size and substrate playing a smaller role in explaining variation. I examined variation in each skull element of four species across phylogenetic and functional levels. Broad convergence in burrowing traits was achieved through different osteological changes. I used finite element analysis to investigate stress distribution in the skull of Acontias kgalagadi when burrowing. By using multiple techniques to look at morphology, I was better able to understand how multiple factors shaped a specialized morphology.
|Advisor:||Bauer, Aaron M.|
|Commitee:||Jackman, Todd, Stark, Alyssa Y.|
|School Location:||United States -- Pennsylvania|
|Source:||MAI 82/7(E), Masters Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Evolution and Development, Morphology|
|Keywords:||Anatomy, Convergent evolution, Fossorial, Skink, Skull, Squamate|
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