|Evolutionary history of elongation and maximum body length in moray eels (Anguilliformes: Muraenidae)|Reece, J.S.; Mehta, R.S. (2013). Evolutionary history of elongation and maximum body length in moray eels (Anguilliformes: Muraenidae). Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 109(4): 861-875. hdl.handle.net/10.1111/bij.12098
In: Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. Academic Press: London; New York. ISSN 0024-4066, more
Axial skeleton; Morphological evolution; Pleomerism; Vertebral aspect ratio
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Body shape and size are important axes of organismal diversification. The elongate body form has evolved repeatedly in disparate vertebrate clades, and is associated with a variety of maximum body lengths. We used a time-calibrated phylogeny for 40 species of moray eels to analyse the evolution of elongation and the morphological mechanisms underlying variation in body shape and maximum body length. We find that body elongation in morays evolves independently of elongation of the vertebral column. In contrast, maximum body length evolves by a different mechanism: through region-specific increases in vertebral number, elongation of individual vertebral centra, and postembryonic somatic growth. We reconstruct an ancestral moray eel and provide evidence for accelerated morphological evolution in three highly elongate species that are associated with a burrowing lifestyle. We compare these patterns with those described for other vertebrates, and show that body shape and body length may evolve independently of each other and (in the case of shape) of the vertebral column.