Ontogeny of skull size and shape changes within a framework of biphasic lifestyle: a case study in six Triturus species (Amphibia, Salamandridae)
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As with many other amphibians, Triturus species are characterized by a biphasic life cycle with abrupt changes in the cranial skeleton during metamorphosis. The post-metamorphic shape changes of the cranial skeleton were investigated using geometric morphometric techniques in six species: Triturus alpestris, T. vulgaris, T. dobrogicus, T. cristatus, T. carnifex, and T. karelinii. The comparative analysis of ontogenetic trajectories revealed that these species have a conserved developmental rate with divergent ontogenetic trajectories of the ventral skull shape that mainly reflect phylogenetic relatedness. A striking exception in the ontogenetic pattern was possibly found in T. dobrogicus, characterized by a marked increase in the developmental rate compared to the other newt species. The size-related shape changes explained a large proportion of shape change during post-metamorphic growth within each species, with marked positive allometric growth of skull elements related to foraging.