Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Length–mass allometry in snakes

Arboreal, burrowing, and aquatic boids.
Clue's to an animals life style (aquatic or terrestrial, burrowing or arboreal) are related to its body size and mass. Body size and body shape are closely correlated to an animal’s physiology, ecology and life history, and, therefore, play a major role in understanding ecological and evolutionary phenomena. Since many species are known from relatively few specimens or difficult to observe direct observations is not always possible. But, because organisms often have different shapes, only a uniform proxy, such as mass, may be suitable for comparisons between taxa. Snake masses are rarely reported in the literature. On the basis of 423 species of snakes in 10 families, Feldman and Meiri (2013) developed clade-specific equations for the estimation of snake masses from snout–vent lengths and total lengths. They found that snout–vent lengths predict masses better than total lengths. By examining the effects of phylogeny, as well as ecological and life history traits on the relationship between mass and length, they found that viviparous species are heavier than oviparous species, and diurnal species are heavier than nocturnal species. Furthermore, microhabitat preferences profoundly influence body shape: arboreal snakes are lighter than terrestrial snakes, whereas aquatic snakes are heavier than terrestrial snakes of a similar length.

Feldman, A. and S. Meiri. 2013. Length–mass allometry in snakes. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 108:161-172.

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