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Extant chelonians (turtles and tortoises) span almost four orders of magnitude of body size, including the startling examples of gigantism seen in the tortoises of the Galapagos and Seychelles islands. However, the evolutionary determinants of size diversity in chelonians are poorly understood. We present a comparative analysis of body size evolution in turtles and tortoises within a phylogenetic framework. Our results reveal a pronounced relationship between habitat and optimal body size in chelonians. We found strong evidence for separate, larger optimal body sizes for sea turtles and island tortoises, the latter showing support for the rule of island gigantism in non-mammalian amniotes. Optimal sizes for freshwater and mainland terrestrial turtles are similar and smaller, although the range of body size variation in these forms is qualitatively greater. The greater number of potential niches in freshwater and terrestrial environments may mean that body size relationships are more complicated in these habitats.
Harvard-Westlake School, North Hollywood, CA 91604, USA.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Biology letters
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Any reptile including tortoises, fresh water, and marine species of the order Testudines with a body encased in a bony or cartilaginous shell consisting of a top (carapace) and a bottom (plastron) derived from the ribs.
The interdisciplinary science that studies evolutionary biology, including the origin and evolution of the major elements required for life, their processing in the interstellar medium and in protostellar systems. This field also includes the study of chemical evolution and the subsequent interactions between evolving biota and planetary evolution as well as the field of biology that deals with the study of extraterrestrial life.
Evolution at the molecular level of DNA sequences and proteins. (Rieger et al., Glossary of Genetics: Classical and Molecular, 5th ed)
The physical measurements of a body.
A phylum of primitive invertebrate animals that exemplify a simple body organization. Trichoplax adhaerens is considered a key species for early metazoan evolution.