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Less need for differentiation? Intestinal length of reptiles as compared to mammals

Hoppe, MI, Meloro, C, Edwards, MS, Codron, D, Clauss, M and Duque-Correa, MJ (2021) Less need for differentiation? Intestinal length of reptiles as compared to mammals. PLoS One, 16 (7). ISSN 1932-6203

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Although relationships between intestinal morphology between trophic groups in reptiles are widely assumed and represent a cornerstone of ecomorphological narratives, few comparative approaches actually tested this hypothesis on a larger scale. We collected data on lengths of intestinal sections of 205 reptile species for which either body mass (BM), snout-vent-length (SVL) or carapax length (CL) was recorded, transforming SVL or CL into BM if the latter was not given, and analyzed scaling patterns with BM and SVL, accounting for phylogeny, comparing three trophic guilds (faunivores, omnivores, herbivores), and comparing with a mammal dataset. Length-BM relationships in reptiles were stronger for the small than the large intestine, suggesting that for the latter, additional factors might be relevant. Adding trophic level did not consistently improve model fit; only when controlling for phylogeny, models indicated a longer large intestine in herbivores, due to a corresponding pattern in lizards. Trophic level effects were highly susceptible to sample sizes, and not considered strong. Models that linked BM to intestine length had better support than models using SVL, due to the deviating body shape of snakes. At comparable BM, reptiles had shorter intestines than mammals. While the latter finding corresponds to findings of lower tissue masses for the digestive tract and other organs in reptiles as well as our understanding of differences in energetic requirements between the classes, they raise the hitherto unanswered question what it is that reptiles of similar BM have more than mammals. A lesser effect of trophic level on intestine lengths in reptiles compared to mammals may stem from lesser selective pressures on differentiation between trophic guilds, related to the generally lower food intake and different movement patterns of reptiles, which may not similarly escalate evolutionary arms races tuned to optimal agility as between mammalian predators and prey.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology
Divisions: Biological & Environmental Sciences (from Sep 19)
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Date Deposited: 06 Jul 2021 10:29
Last Modified: 04 Sep 2021 05:16
DOI or ID number: 10.1371/journal.pone.0253182
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/15231
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