Anthony Herrel (Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle)

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14 mars 2014 11:00 » 12:00 — Bureau d’Etudes

Biomechanics and evolution in snakes

Morphological convergence as a consequence of extreme functional demands : examples from the feeding system of natricine snakes

Despite repeated acquisitions of aquatic or semi-aquatic lifestyles revolving around piscivory, snakes have not evolved suction feeding. Instead, snakes use frontally or laterally directed strikes to capture prey under water. If the aquatic medium constrains strike performance because of its physical properties, we predict morphological and functional convergence in snakes that use similar strike behaviours. Here we use natricine snakes to test for such patterns of convergence in morphology and function. Our data show that frontal strikers have converged on a similar morphology characterized by narrow elongate heads with a reduced projected frontal surface area. Moreover, simple computational fluid dynamics models show that the observed morphological differences are likely biologically relevant as they affect the flow of water around the head. In general, our data suggest that the direction of evolution may be predictable if constraints are strong and evolutionary solutions limited.

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