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The relationship between cranial structure, biomechanical performance and ecological diversity in varanoid lizards

McCurry, Matthew R., Mahony, Michael, Clausen, Phillip D., Quayle, Michelle R., Walmsley, Christopher W., Jessop, Tim S., Wroe, Stephen, Richards, Heather and McHenry, Colin R. 2015, The relationship between cranial structure, biomechanical performance and ecological diversity in varanoid lizards, PLoS ONE, vol. 10, no. 6, pp. 1-27, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0130625.

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Title The relationship between cranial structure, biomechanical performance and ecological diversity in varanoid lizards
Author(s) McCurry, Matthew R.
Mahony, Michael
Clausen, Phillip D.
Quayle, Michelle R.
Walmsley, Christopher W.
Jessop, Tim S.
Wroe, Stephen
Richards, Heather
McHenry, Colin R.
Journal name PLoS ONE
Volume number 10
Issue number 6
Start page 1
End page 27
Total pages 27
Publisher PLoS
Place of publication San Francisco, Calif.
Publication date 2015-06-24
ISSN 1932-6203
Keyword(s) Cranium
Finite element analysis
Summary This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.Skull structure is intimately associated with feeding ability in vertebrates, both in terms of specific performance measures and general ecological characteristics. This study quantitatively assessed variation in the shape of the cranium and mandible in varanoid lizards, and its relationship to structural performance (von Mises strain) and interspecific differences in feeding ecology. Geometric morphometric and linear morphometric analyses were used to evaluate morphological differences, and finite element analysis was used to quantify variation in structural performance (strain during simulated biting, shaking and pulling). This data was then integrated with ecological classes compiled from relevant scientific literature on each species in order to establish structure-function relationships. Finite element modelling results showed that variation in cranial morphology resulted in large differences in the magnitudes and locations of strain in biting, shaking and pulling load cases. Gracile species such as Varanus salvadorii displayed high strain levels during shaking, especially in the areas between the orbits. All models exhibit less strain during pull back loading compared to shake loading, even though a larger force was applied (pull =30N, shake = 20N). Relationships were identified between the morphology, performance, and ecology. Species that did not feed on hard prey clustered in the gracile region of cranial morphospace and exhibited significantly higher levels of strain during biting (P = 0.0106). Species that fed on large prey clustered in the elongate area of mandible morphospace. This relationship differs from those that have been identified in other taxonomic groups such as crocodiles and mammals. This difference may be due to a combination of the open 'space-frame' structure of the varanoid lizard skull, and the 'pull back' behaviour that some species use for processing large prey.
Language eng
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0130625
Field of Research 060807 Animal Structure and Function
060806 Animal Physiological Ecology
MD Multidisciplinary
Socio Economic Objective 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences
HERDC Research category C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
ERA Research output type C Journal article
Copyright notice ©2015, PLoS
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Document type: Journal Article
Collection: School of Life and Environmental Sciences
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