My PostDoc Dr. Jendrian Riedel joint the 13th International Congress of Vertebrate Morphology in Cairns, Australia, presenting our results on gecko morphology. The conference was a great opportunity to meet vertebrate morphologists from across the globe, with many fantastic presentations spanning a wide range of organisms, methods, and research questions.
Evolution of phalangeal morphology in an ecomorphological gecko radiation with incipiently expressed adhesive toepads
Jendrian Riedel, Mariam Gabelaia, Jonas Dreesmann, Jannis Manno, Timothy Higham, L. Lee Grismer, Dennis Rödder, Benjamin Wipfler, Anthony P. Russell
Adhesive toepads, complex morphological structures enabling animals to exhibit astonishing climbing abilities, have evolved multiple times in geckos. Although well studied in a few exemplar clades in terms of function and morphology, their evolution is poorly understood, in part due to the scarcity of studies on incipiently developed toepad morphologies. One lineage within which incipient toepads has been suggested to have arisen is the genus Cyrtodactylus (bent-toed geckos), an ecologically diverse radiation, whose climbing members possess enlarged subdigital scales. The limited data available suggested that some members of the clade could be arranged in morphotypic series showing gradual changes in digit osteology from padless to pad bearing forms. With the phylogeny of the genus now much better resolved and knowledge about their microhabitat use greatly enhanced, we are now able to conduct a phylogenetically informed investigation of digit osteology using microCT data and applying 3D geometric morphometrics. We explored whether, and if so how, repeated gradual changes in digit osteology have occurred in scansorial species and whether such modifications differ depending on the locomotor substrate (e.g., arboreal vs. saxicolous species). We found that distinct morphological changes have arisen repeatedly in scansorial species descending from generalist ancestors. These adaptations are substrate specific for at least some of the phalanges, differing between arboreal and saxicolous species, although there were differential degrees of overlap in other phalanges.