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Type: Journal article
Title: [PLEASE UPDATE Auth Aff] Ontogenetic allometry underlies trophic diversity in sea turtles (Chelonioidea)
Author: Chatterji, R.
Sherratt, E.
Hipsley, C.
Hutchinson, M.
Jones, M.
Citation: Evolutionary Ecology, 2022; 36(4):511-540
Publisher: Springer
Issue Date: 2022
ISSN: 0269-7653
Statement of
Ray M. Chatterji, Christy A. Hipsley, Emma Sherratt, Mark N. Hutchinson, Marc E. H. Jones
Abstract: Despite only comprising seven species, extant sea turtles (Cheloniidae and Dermochelyidae) display great ecological diversity, with most species inhabiting a unique dietary niche as adults. This adult diversity is remarkable given that all species share the same dietary niche as juveniles. These ontogenetic shifts in diet, as well as a dramatic increase in body size, make sea turtles an excellent group to examine how morphological diversity arises by allometric processes and life habit specialisation. Using three-dimensional geometric morphometrics, we characterise ontogenetic allometry in the skulls of all seven species and evaluate variation in the context of phylogenetic history and diet. Among the sample, the olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) has a seemingly average sea turtle skull shape and generalised diet, whereas the green (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) show diferent extremes of snout shape associated with their modes of food gathering (grazing vs. grasping, respectively). Our ontogenetic fndings corroborate previous suggestions that the skull of the leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) is paedomorphic, having similar skull proportions to hatchlings of other sea turtle species and retaining a hatchlinglike diet of relatively soft bodied organisms. The fatback sea turtle (Natator depressus) shows a similar but less extreme pattern. By contrast, the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) shows a peramorphic signal associated with increased jaw muscle volumes that allow predation on hard shelled prey. The Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempii) has a peramorphic skull shape compared to its sister species the olive ridley, and a diet that includes harder prey items such as crabs. We suggest that diet may be a significant factor in driving skull shape differences among species. Although the small number of species limits statistical power, differences among skull shape, size, and diet are consistent with the hypothesis that shifts in allometric trajectory facilitated diversification in skull shape as observed in an increasing number of vertebrate groups.
Keywords: Allometry; Chelonioidea; Diet; Ontogeny; Skull; Testudines
Description: Published online: 5 March 2022
Rights: © The Author(s) 2022 This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
DOI: 10.1007/s10682-022-10162-z
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Appears in Collections:Zoology publications

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