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  1. Abstract

    The taxonomy of the South American river dolphins of the genus Inia has been a focus of intense debate. While traditionally it is thought to be composed of a single species with three geographically structured subspecies (Inia geoffrensis geoffrensis, I. g. humboldtiana, and I. g. boliviensis), recent molecular studies have highlighted substantial differentiation, suggesting the existence of two species (I. geoffrensis and I. araguaiaensis). Despite this evidence, the recognition of the specific status of these taxa has been hindered by inconsistent morphological diagnoses. Here, we aim to provide evidence for the morphological differentiation (or lack thereof) between subspecies and putative species. We employ geometrics and traditional morphometrics to measure skull variation to support efforts of integrative taxonomy. Our results show that morphometric diversity within the group is inconsistent with a single taxon. Morphometric evidence supports the traditional differentiation of three distinct morphotypes within the analyzed sample. These morphotypes largely correspond to described subspecies I. g. geoffrensis, I. g. humboldtiana—the latter differing from the former by size—and I. g. boliviensis, which differs from the remaining groups by shape. Furthermore, morphometric data show no differences between I. g. geoffrensis and a newly proposed species, I. araguaiaensis. Given the conservation importance ofmore »this genus and the different threats they are subject to, we strongly suggest an urgent integrative taxonomic treatment of the group to better protect these singular cetaceans.

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  2. The role of natural selection in the evolution of trait complexity can be characterized by testing hypothesized links between complex forms and their functions across species. Predatory venoms are composed of multiple proteins that collectively function to incapacitate prey. Venom complexity fluctuates over evolutionary timescales, with apparent increases and decreases in complexity, and yet the causes of this variation are unclear. We tested alternative hypotheses linking venom complexity and ecological sources of selection from diet in the largest clade of front-fanged venomous snakes in North America: the rattlesnakes, copperheads, cantils, and cottonmouths. We generated independent transcriptomic and proteomic measures of venom complexity and collated several natural history studies to quantify dietary variation. We then constructed genome-scale phylogenies for these snakes for comparative analyses. Strikingly, prey phylogenetic diversity was more strongly correlated to venom complexity than was overall prey species diversity, specifically implicating prey species’ divergence, rather than the number of lineages alone, in the evolution of complexity. Prey phylogenetic diversity further predicted transcriptomic complexity of three of the four largest gene families in viper venom, showing that complexity evolution is a concerted response among many independent gene families. We suggest that the phylogenetic diversity of prey measures functionally relevant divergencemore »in the targets of venom, a claim supported by sequence diversity in the coagulation cascade targets of venom. Our results support the general concept that the diversity of species in an ecological community is more important than their overall number in determining evolutionary patterns in predator trait complexity.

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