Morphological Integration and Ontogenetic Niche Shift: A Study of Crested Newt Limbs
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This study deals with the ontogenetic and evolutionary aspects of integration patterns in the limbs of crested newt species, which, like most amphibians, have a biphasic life history with two morphologically distinct stages (larval vs. juvenile and adult) that occupy different environments (aquatic vs. terrestrial). We analyzed the structure and pattern of correlation between limb skeletal elements at three ontogenetic stages (larval, juvenile, and adult) of four closely related species that differ in their preferences of aquatic habitats (more terrestrial and more aquatic). We found dynamic changes in the pattern of morphological integration between successive ontogenetic stages, as well as changes over the course of crested newt phylogeny. Generally, equivalent ontogenetic stages of different species of crested newts show higher concordance in the correlation pattern than successive ontogenetic stages within species. Among species, two opposing correlation patterns were observed: in more terrestrial species, homologous limb elements are less correlated and within-limb elements are more correlated; in aquatic species, the reverse pattern occurs. These results indicate that the function seems to be the covariance-generating factor, which has shaped the patterns of morphological integration of crested newt limbs. J. Exp. Zool. (Mol. Dev. Evol.) 316:296-305, 2011. (C) 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.