The role of phylogeny and ecology in shaping morphology in 21 genera and 127 species of Australo-Papuan myobatrachid frogs
Body shape is predicted to differ among species for functional reasons and in relation to environmental niche and phylogenetic history. We quantified morphological differences in shape and size among 98.5% of the 129 species and all 21 genera of the Australo-Papuan endemic myobatrachid frogs to test the hypothesis that habitat type predicts body shape in this radiation. We tested this hypothesis in a phylogenetic context at two taxonomic levels: across the entire radiation and within the four largest genera. Thirty-four external measurements were taken on 623 museum specimens representing 127 species. Data for seven key environmental variables relevant to anurans were assembled for all Australian-distributed species based on species' distributions and 131,306 locality records. The Australo-Papuan myobatrachid radiation showed high diversity in adult body size, ranging from minute (15 mm snout–vent length) to very large species (92 mm), and shape, particularly sin relative limb length. Five main morphological and environmental summary variables displayed strong phylogenetic signal. There was no clear relationship between body size and environmental niche, and this result persisted following phylogenetic correction. For most species, there was a better match between environment/habitat and body shape, but this relationship did not persist following phylogenetic correction. At a broad level, species fell into three broad groups based on environmental niche and body shape: 1) species in wet habitats with relatively long limbs, 2) species in arid environments with relatively short limbs (many of which are forward or backward burrowers) and 3) habitat generalist species with a conservative body shape. However, these patterns were not repeated within the four largest genera − Crinia, Limnodynastes, Pseudophryne and Uperoleia. Each of these genera displayed a highly conservative anuran body shape, yet individual species were distributed across the full spectrum of Australian environments. Our results suggest that phylogenetic legacy is important in the evolution of body size and shape in Australian anurans, but also that the conservative body plan of many frogs works well in a wide variety of habitats.
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