Term of Award

Summer 2021

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Department

Department of Biology

Committee Chair

Christian Cox

Committee Member 1

Lance McBrayer

Committee Member 2

Ray Chandler

Abstract

The form of an organism can be studied by looking at how traits vary throughout the organism’s development, this can reveal if a trait is important at a particular stage of the species development. This can be studied by looking at the scaling relationships of particular traits in relation to the organism and whether that particular trait scales isometrically or allometrically. This type of study can be of particular interest when looking at groups that are known to be specialists, because there will likely be a link between the trait and the specialization that the group has. Therefore an ideal group to look at are snakes. This is because snakes are limited by the simplicity of their body plan, and are limited in the regions of the body that are able to specialise; with one of those components being the skull. The skull of snakes is the best skeletal component to look at when discussing feeding specialization, due to it being the only component of the body (other than vertebrae and teeth) that are linked directly to feeding. Specifically a group of snakes that are specialist feeders would be ideal, such as Tantilla that are known as the centipede snakes. Therefore this study used geometric morphometric techniques in the group to see if there is a link between feeding ecology and skull shape of these specialist species. The results of this analysis shows that the scaling relationship among the three species analysed seems to largely be consistent, with many components showing a positively allometric scaling relationship, independent of evolutionary group or feeding specialization. This could suggest that due to this group consuming highly dangerous prey, that they must scale with the risk of being damaged by their highly protected prey. Also, the fact that this pattern is seen in both specialists and non-specialists, as well as between two different species groups this pattern shows that there is some sort of constraint within the group that may be preventing further specialization.

Research Data and Supplementary Material

No

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