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The causes and ecological correlates of head scale asymmetry and fragmentation in a tropical snake

Brown, Gregory P., Madsen, Thomas, Dubey, Sylvain and Shine, Rick 2017, The causes and ecological correlates of head scale asymmetry and fragmentation in a tropical snake, Scientific reports, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 1-11, doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-11768-y.

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Title The causes and ecological correlates of head scale asymmetry and fragmentation in a tropical snake
Author(s) Brown, Gregory P.
Madsen, Thomas
Dubey, Sylvain
Shine, Rick
Journal name Scientific reports
Volume number 7
Issue number 1
Article ID 11363
Start page 1
End page 11
Total pages 11
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Place of publication London, Eng.
Publication date 2017-09-12
ISSN 2045-2322
Keyword(s) Science & Technology
Multidisciplinary Sciences
Science & Technology - Other Topics
Summary The challenge of identifying the proximate causes and ecological consequences of phenotypic variation can be facilitated by studying traits that are usually but not always bilaterally symmetrical; deviations from symmetry likely reflect disrupted embryogenesis. Based on a 19-year mark-recapture study of >1300 slatey-grey snakes (Stegonotus cucullatus) in tropical Australia, and incubation of >700 eggs, we document developmental and ecological correlates of two morphological traits: asymmetry and fragmentation of head scales. Asymmetry was directional (more scales on the left side) and was higher in individuals with lower heterozygosity, but was not heritable. In contrast, fragmentation was heritable and was higher in females than males. Both scale asymmetry and fragmentation were increased by rapid embryogenesis but were not affected by hydric conditions during incubation. Snakes with asymmetry and fragmentation exhibited slightly lower survival and increased (sex-specific) movements, and females with more scale fragmentation produced smaller eggs. Counterintuitively, snakes with more asymmetry had higher growth rates (possibly reflecting trade-offs with other traits), and snakes with more fragmentation had fewer parasites (possibly due to lower feeding rates). Our data paint an unusually detailed picture of the complex genetic and environmental factors that, by disrupting early embryonic development, generate variations in morphology that have detectable correlations with ecological performance.
Language eng
DOI 10.1038/s41598-017-11768-y
Field of Research 060305 Evolution of Developmental Systems
060806 Animal Physiological Ecology
060899 Zoology not elsewhere classified
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
ERA Research output type C Journal article
Copyright notice ©2017, The Authors
Free to Read? Yes
Use Rights Creative Commons Attribution licence
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30103859

Document type: Journal Article
Collections: School of Life and Environmental Sciences
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Every reasonable effort has been made to ensure that permission has been obtained for items included in DRO. If you believe that your rights have been infringed by this repository, please contact drosupport@deakin.edu.au.