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Oxford University Press

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Biological Journal of the Linnean Society

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DOI: 10.1093/biolinnean/blab164


How developmental modifications produce key innovations, which subsequently allow for rapid diversification of a clade into new adaptive zones, has received much attention. However, few studies have used a robust comparative framework to investigate the influence of evolutionary and developmental constraints on the origin of key innovations, such as the adhesive toe pad of lizards. Adhesive toe pads evolved independently at least 16 times in lizards, allowing us to examine whether the patterns observed are general evolutionary phenomena or unique, lineage-specific events. We performed a high-resolution comparison of plantar scale development in 14 lizard species in Anolis and geckos, encompassing five independent origins of toe pads (one in Anolis, four in geckos). Despite substantial evolutionary divergence between Anolis and geckos, we find that these clades have undergone similar developmental modifications to generate their adhesive toe pads. Relative to the ancestral plantar scale development, in which scale ridges form synchronously along the digit, both padded geckos and Anolis exhibit scansor [sic] formation in a distal-to-proximal direction. Both clades have undergone developmental repatterning and, following their origin, modifications in toe pad morphology occurred through relatively minor developmental modifications, suggesting that developmental constraints governed the diversification of the adhesive toe pad in lizards.


Accepted version. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, Vol. 135, No. 3 (March 2022): 518-532. DOI. © 2022 Oxford University Press. Used with permission.

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