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  1. Reptiles are still being described worldwide at a pace of hundreds of species a year. While many discoveries are from remote tropical areas, biodiverse arid regions still harbor many novel taxa. Here, we present an updated phylogeny of colubrid snakes from the Western Palearctic by analyzing a supermatrix of all available global snake species with molecular data and report on the discovery of a new genus and species of colubrine snake from southeastern Iran. The new taxon, namedPersiophis fahimiiGen. et sp. nov., is nested within a clade containing Middle Eastern and South Asian ground racers (Lytorhynchus,Rhynchocalamus, Wallaceophis, andWallophis). This species has a derived morphology including an edentulous pterygoid and occurrence of short and blunt teeth on the palatine, maxillae and dentary bones, an elongated snout and a relatively trihedral first supralabial scale that is slightly bigger than the second, and elongated toward the tip of rostral. We also report on the osteology and phylogenetic placement of several poorly studied colubrines:Hierophis andreanus(reassigned toDolichophis) andMuhtarophis barani.

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  2. Abstract

    Patterns of convergent evolution in head shape, combined with performance measures, provide ideal opportunities to understand the processes driving its evolution. Anole lizards represent an excellent subject to test this, as recurrent habitat specialists or ecomorphs evolved independently across different islands.

    We show that phenotypic similarity corresponds to both phylogenetic similarity and similarity in habitat, indicating that there is convergent evolution in head shape among ecomorphs. Moreover, we show that the evolution of tall, wide heads correlate with the evolution of higher bite forces, driving head shape variation among and within ecomorphs.

    In addition, the processes affecting head shape variation can differ between sexes, leading to sexual head shape dimorphism. These processes might, however, still depend on the habitat. Consequently, there could also be convergent evolution in head shape dimorphism among ecomorphs.

    We found no evidence for convergent evolution in sexual head shape dimorphism. Moreover, the sexual head shape dimorphism correlates poorly with bite force, suggesting that intersexual head shape differences are related to other functions. Different processes are thus driving the evolution of head shape and head shape dimorphism.

    A freePlain Language Summarycan be found within the Supporting Information of this article.

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  3. Abstract

    Dietary partitioning often accompanies the increased morphological diversity seen during adaptive radiations within aquatic systems. While such niche partitioning would be expected in older radiations, it is unclear how significant morphological divergence occurs within a shorter time period. Here we show how differential growth in key elements of the feeding mechanism can bring about pronounced functional differences among closely related species. An incredibly young adaptive radiation of threeCyprinodonspecies residing within hypersaline lakes in San Salvador Island, Bahamas, has recently been described. Characterized by distinct head shapes, gut content analyses revealed three discrete feeding modes in these species: basal detritivory as well as derived durophagy and lepidophagy (scale‐feeding). We dissected, cleared and stained, and micro‐CT scanned species to assess functionally relevant differences in craniofacial musculoskeletal elements. The widespread feeding mode previously described for cyprinodontiforms, in which the force of the bite may be secondary to the requisite dexterity needed to pick at food items, is modified within both the scale specialist and the durophagous species. While the scale specialist has greatly emphasized maxillary retraction, using it to overcome the poor mechanical advantage associated with scale‐eating, the durophage has instead stabilized the maxilla. In all species the bulk of the adductor musculature is composed of AM A1. However, the combined masses of both adductor mandibulae (AM) A1 and A3 in the scale specialist were five times that of the other species, showing the importance of growth in functional divergence. The scale specialist combines plesiomorphic jaw mechanisms with both a hypertrophied AM A1 and a slightly modified maxillary anatomy (with substantial functional implications) to generate a bite that is both strong and allows a wide range of motion in the upper jaw, two attributes that normally tradeoff mechanically. Thus, a significant feeding innovation (scale‐eating, rarely seen in fishes) may evolve based largely on allometric changes in ancestral structures. Alternatively, the durophage shows reduced growth with foreshortened jaws that are stabilized by an immobile maxilla. Overall, scale specialists showed the most divergent morphology, suggesting that selection for scale‐biting might be stronger or act on a greater number of traits than selection for either detritivory or durophagy. The scale specialist has colonized an adaptive peak that few lineages have climbed. Thus, heterochronic changes in growth can quickly produce functionally relevant change among closely related species.

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