Jack-of-all-trades master of all? Snake vertebrae have a generalist inner organization.

Abstract : Snakes are a very speciose group of squamates that adapted to various habitats and ecological niches. Their ecological diversity is of particular interest and functional demands associated with their various styles of locomotion are expected to result in anatomical specializations. In order to explore the potential adaptation of snakes to their environment we here analyze variation in vertebral structure at the microanatomical level in species with different locomotor adaptations. Vertebrae, being a major element of the snake body, are expected to display adaptations to the physical constraints associated with the different locomotor modes and environments. Our results revealed a rather homogenous vertebral microanatomy in contrast to what has been observed for other squamates and amniotes more generally. We here suggest that the near-absence of microanatomical specializations in snake vertebrae might be correlated to their rather homogeneous overall morphology and reduced range of morphological diversity, as compared to lizards. Thus, snakes appear to retain a generalist inner morphology that allows them to move efficiently in different environments. Only a few ecologically highly specialized taxa appear to display some microanatomical specializations that remain to be studied in greater detail.
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Alexandra Houssaye, Renaud Boistel, Wolfgang Böhme, Anthony Herrel. Jack-of-all-trades master of all? Snake vertebrae have a generalist inner organization.. The Science of Nature Naturwissenschaften, Springer Verlag, 2013, 100 (11), pp.997-1006. ⟨10.1007/s00114-013-1102-x⟩. ⟨hal-00993585⟩

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