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Session Schedule & Abstracts

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Friday 1st July, 2016

Symposium: Past, Present and Future of Ecological Morphology 2

Room: Salon B   12:45 pm–1:00 pm

Moderator(s): L. D. McBrayer, E. J. McElroy, & R. Wilson
ECO2-1  11:30 am  Ecometric patterning in hind limb morphology of North American carnivorans (Carnivora, Mammalia): community-level functional morphology and evolutionary ecology. Polly PD*, Indiana University
Abstract: Ecometrics is the quantitative study of the distributions of functional traits within local communities and the environmental sorting of those traits at regional and continental scales. Functional traits are properties of organisms that have a direct physical or physiological relationship to an underlying quality of the environment, which in turn has indirect links to broader environmental factors such as temperature, precipitation, elevation, atmospheric composition, or sea level. Ecometric patterns across space and through time arise through a combination of biogeographic sorting, evolution, and extinction driven by changes in environments. Hind limb locomotor morphology in living carnivorans (Mammalia, Carnivora) has an ecometric distribution that is associated with terrain and vegetation cover. Measured as a gear ratio from the calcaneum, I show that the mean value in North American carnivoran communities is strongly linked to biome types. Interestingly, within-species variation is not correlated with environment in the same way, or at least not strongly so. Phylogenetic community analysis combined with phylogenetic history of carnivorans shows that ecometric patterning in this trait arises from clade-based sorting of digitigrade, semidigitigrade, and plantigrade family-level groups. The association between hind limb gear ratio and vegetation is strong enough that the vegetation cover of North America can be reconstructed from carnivoran limb morphology with a similar degree of accuracy as vegetation models based on temperature and precipitation. Anthropogenic changes to the North American landscape and its carnivoran fauna have had large but erratic effects on ecometric patterns compared to the environmental and faunal changes associated with the last deglaciation.

ECO2-2  11:45 am  500 million years of form and function in fishes: perspectives from Deep Time. Friedman M*, University of Oxford; Close R, University of Oxford; Delbarre D, University of Oxford; Dobson C, University College London; Giles S, University of Oxford; Johanson Z, Natural History Museum, London
Abstract: The long fossil record of fishes spans roughly half a billion years of geological history. A variety of depositional setting yield fish remains over this interval, and these specimens are often characterized by a higher degree of completeness and articulation than fossil tetrapods. This extensive archive of extinct phenotypes provides a rich substrate for analyses targeting questions of convergence, morphological innovation, and ecological diversification over long evolutionary timescales. However, the fish record presents challenges. From a geological standpoint, horizons characterized by excellent preservation are idiosyncratically distributed both spatially and temporally, and the specimens they yield are often—but not always—highly compressed. From a research standpoint, extinct fishes receive far less scrutiny than their terrestrial relatives, meaning that many basic aspects of their structure, taxonomy, and relationships are less clear than for tetrapods. From a biological standpoint, the numerical dominance of teleosts in the living fauna means that many extinct taxa lack obvious modern analogues in which hypotheses of ancient ecologies and functions might be firmly grounded. This talk reviews the progress that has been made in the ecomorphology of fossil fishes in recent years, drawing on examples from throughout the Phanerozoic. Quantification of jaw mechanics and overall body geometry remain the easiest and most widely used approaches to flattened fossil material. However, the application of tomographic approaches to three-dimensionally preserved material yields considerable information that can augment existing work. This reveals information that is usually (e.g., gill-arch structure and elaboration of associated dentition and rakers) or always (e.g., geometry of the buccal cavity, morphology of the inner ear) obliterated in compression fossils, providing tests of previous ecological hypotheses and the empirical data to formulate new ones.

ECO2-3  12:00 pm  Reciprocal illumination of body shape on predator-prey interactions and trophic morphology . Mehta RS*, University of California, Santa Cruz; Baliga VB, University of California, Santa Cruz; Diluzio A, University of California, Santa Cruz; Higgins BA, University of California, Santa Cruz; Harrison JS, University of California, Santa Cruz
Abstract: Body shapes in fishes vary on a continuum from nearly spherical to highly elongate or eel-like. In these extreme morphologies, we tend to find gratifying relationships between form and function. Moray eels (Anguilliformes: Muraenidae) comprise a large radiation of highly snake-like marine predators that attain relatively large standard lengths. Many species of morays are known to use a diversity of prey subjection strategies to assist in feeding, such as shaking, body rotation, knotting, and ramming prey against other objects. There is little diet data informing us of the maximum prey size of morays and exactly when manipulation strategies are employed. Here, we supplement feeding performance trials in a controlled laboratory environment with field dietary data for the California moray (Gymnothorax mordax). In feeding trials, both ingestion ratio and relative prey mass were calculated from various sizes of cephalopod and fish prey. We discovered that morays had greater success tearing apart fish prey with behaviors such as knotting, while cephalopods were either swallowed whole or only their tentacles were consumed. When we examine the relationship between prey size, measured in standard length, and predator size, measured as oral gape width, from field stomach contents, we find that morays consume a wide size range of fish prey. Larger morays do not omit small prey from their diet. To better understand the prey accessible to morays, we explore the scaling relationships between California morays and prey available in their environment. Not surprisingly, we find that prey species vary in body shape and how they scale in relation to moray gape width. We show that studying shape of both the predator and prey can be a reciprocally illuminating process: we gain insight into the different size classes of prey that are readily available to morays and how prey shape affects the maximum size morays may consume.

ECO2-4  12:15 pm  Ecological morphology in neotropical lizards: is Tropiduridae a key biological system? Kohlsdorf T*, University of São Paulo; Barros FC, University of São Paulo; Lofeu L, University of São Paulo; Rothier PS, University of São Paulo; Brandt R, University of São Paulo
Abstract: Ecological morphology is a very active research field extensively applied to several animal groups. As other disciplines, some major conceptual advances in ecomorphology are achieved through subsequent studies focusing on lineages that have specific characteristics endorsing them as ideal systems for that given research program. In this talk I will summarize 15 years of ecomorphological studies using neotropical lizards from the family Tropiduridae, and will also present new data incorporating additional dimensions to the field. Data on limb and head proportions provide evidence for ecomorphological associations in Tropiduridae: head shape evolved in association with inclusion of hard prey in the diet, limb and tail proportions differ with the use of arboreal environments, sand species are characterized by long feet. Some of these morphological specializations have been recovered at the population level in Tropiduridae. Ecomorphological associations in this lizard family have functional implications, as we identify morpho-physiological components associated to locomotor performance among species ecologically divergent. Some associations between morphology and locomotion also respond to sexual selection: Tropidurus males perform better than females in four types of performance, and sexes are different not only in size but also in body shape and muscle morphometrics. An additional dimension recently incorporated to this complex equation resides on effects of ontogenetic changes on ecomorphological associations. To conclude, data for Tropiduridae show solutions to equivalent selective pressures that differ from those generalized for lizards based on studies with Anolis. The possibility of obtaining embryos and raising eggs and juveniles under controlled conditions ascends this lizard family as a key biological system for inferring associations under a modern framework that combines ecological morphology with ecological evolutionary development.

ECO2-5  12:30 pm  Success in nature and sport: exploring the biological basis of excellence in physical activities? . Wilson R S*, The University of Queensland
Abstract: All physical activities rely on a complex assortment of anatomical, physiological, motor and behavioural traits. Discovering the determinants of individual success in physical activities has become central to the study of functional morphology because it allows one to understand the coevolution of organismal form and function. In a similar way, determining the combination of traits most responsible for success in human functional tasks is of enormous interest to the sports industry for discovering and developing athletes and the health sciences for facilitating improved pathways of recovery following injury. But despite the parallels in research programs between the natural and health sciences, each discipline has operated in relative isolation. I will explore the parallel lines of research that explore the determinants of success in physical activities in two very different but complimentary systems: (i) natural populations of the small marsupial, the northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus) from Australia, and (ii) semi-professional soccer players. The northern quoll is the world's largest semelparous mammal, which means mating is highly synchronous, males live for only one year, and all males undergo die-offs soon after reproduction. Given the importance of procuring mates in such a short period (approx. 2 weeks), the ability for males to win fights and cover long distances to find reproductively mature females is presumably of critical importance. Female quolls live for two to three years and their die-off occurs after the young are weaned - which is around four months after the mating season. Soccer is also ideal for integrative studies of success because we can readily identify, isolate and quantify many of the possible underlying determinants of success among large numbers of individual players. Using these two very different study systems, I will discuss the implications of my work for understanding the evolution and ecology of physical performance in nature.

ECO2-6  12:45 pm  Symposium roundtable discussion. McElroy EJ*, College of Charleston; McBrayer LD, Georgia Southern University; Wilson R, University of Queensland

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