Functional consequences of morphological differentiation between populations of the Cape Dwarf Chameleon (Bradypodion pumilum)

Department of Biodiversity and Conservation Biology, University of the Western Cape, Private Bag X17, Bellville 7535, South Africa; Department of Botany and Zoology, University of Stellenbosch, Matieland 7602, South Africa
Biological Journal of the Linnean Society (Impact Factor: 2.41). 10/2011; 104(3):692 - 700. DOI: 10.1111/j.1095-8312.2011.01764.x

ABSTRACT Variation in phenotype between species or populations of the same species living in different habitats is often explained in an adaptive context with local habitat differences driving selection on morphological traits relevant in a given ecological context. Previous studies have demonstrated significant differences in limb and tail morphology between populations of the Cape Dwarf Chameleon (Bradypodion pumilum) living in closed vs. open habitats. However, the adaptive nature of the observed differences remains unclear. Here, we quantify the structural habitat use in two different populations, test whether the random habitat differs between the two sites and whether or not chameleons select perches randomly. Next, we test whether morphology is correlated with structural habitat use and test for differences in performance between populations. Our results demonstrate that habitats are structurally different, that chameleons in the two populations use perches of different diameters and that, in one of the populations, chameleons select relatively wider perches than available at random. Performance traits (hand and tail grip performance and sprint speed) are correlated with morphology (hand size, tail length and tibia length) and differ between sexes and populations. Moreover, performance is dependent on dowel size. These results suggest that differences in performance between populations are indeed adaptive and indicate the existence of true ecomorphs in chameleons of the genus Bradypodion. © 2011 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2011, 104, 692–700.

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