Broadcasted games and ecological data to understand the evolution of functional traits
Burrowing Snake-Like Morphs (BSLM) have converged in morphology, behavior, physiology and biogeography in many lineages of Squamates across the Earth. I asked how functional traits (escape, feeding skills and abundance) of this “snake-like syndrome” have evolved, linking function to morphological evolution. We compared the escape and feeding skills of syntopic species of lizards with lacertoid and BSLM species in different environmental and virtual contexts.
With respect to escape skills, BSLM were slower and elongated and depended on loose soil to compensate for their poorer escape skills against visual predators. With respect to feeding skills, BSLM ate fast prey at the soil’s surface as well as lacertoid relatives. They also outperformed lacertoid morphs when hunting underground prey and preferred preying underground rather than preying at the surface. I show how changes in functional traits interwined with ecology during the evolution of snake-like lizards. In addition, I propose a mechanistic link between the evolution of snake-like lizards and convergent biogeographical traits across lineages of these morphs.