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4:00 p.m.
The Evolution of Body Size and Shape in Insular Tiger Snakes: Hypotheses and the Evidence

Abstract: Body size is an important life history trait whose evolution may be related to energy budgets for prey and prey handling, predation and/or competition, or socio-sexual factors. On offshore islands of southern Australia mean adult body sizes among populations of tiger snakes (Notechis scutatus/ater complex: Elapidae) exhibit a six-fold difference in length and weight. Molecular evidence supports a relatively recent change within the time of isolation of these continental islands (5000-8000 ybp). Predation does not seem to have been a factor in these changes, and conclusive evidence of socio-sexual interactions (i.e., male-male combat) perhaps cannot explain all cases, whereas prey differences among islands correlate well with average body sizes. Tests show that growth is both ecophenotypic and ecotypic, however the precise genetic mechanism is unknown. In this discussion, I will summarize the arguments and evidence gathered thus far and offer a new hypothesis with limited supporting data to explain how body sizes and shapes evolved in these snakes. The Asa Gray Seminar Series is sponsored by the Asa Gray Biological Society, and is the longest running seminar series at Utica College. Scientists are invited from throughout the region to present seminars on their ongoing research. All lectures are held in Donahue Auditorium, Gordon Science Center, at 4:00 p.m. An informal reception immediately follows. Call (315) 792-3028 for more information.


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