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Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology

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Accepted Manuscript

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Evolutionary biologists have long been interested in the macroevolutionary consequences of various selection pressures, yet physiological responses to selection across deep time are not well understood. In this paper, we investigate how a physiologically-relevant morphological trait, surface area to volume ratio (SA:V) of lungless salamanders, has evolved across broad regional and climatic variation. SA:V directly impacts an organisms’ ability to retain water, leading to the expectation that smaller SA:Vs would be advantageous in arid, water-limited environments. To explore the macroevolutionary patterns of SA:V, we first develop an accurate method for estimating SA:V from linear measurements. Next, we investigate the macroevolutionary patterns of SA:V across 257 salamander species, revealing that higher SA:Vs phylogenetically correlate with warmer, wetter climates. We also observe higher SA:V disparity and rate of evolution in tropical species, mirrored by higher climatic disparity in available and occupied tropical habitats. Taken together, these results suggest that the tropics have provided a wider range of warmer, wetter climates for salamanders to exploit, thereby relaxing desiccation pressures on SA:V. Overall, this paper provides an accurate, efficient method for quantifying salamander SA:V, allowing us to demonstrate the power of physiological selection pressures in influencing the macroevolution of morphology.


This is a manuscript of an article published as Baken, Erica K., Lauren E. Mellenthin, and Dean C. Adams. "Macroevolution of desiccation‐related morphology in plethodontid salamanders as inferred from a novel surface area to volume ratio estimation approach." Evolution (2019). doi: 10.1111/evo.13898. Posted with permission.

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The Authors. Evolution, The Society for the Study of Evolution.



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