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For well over a century, scientists have thought climate is a key factor affecting the evolution of animal body sizes. However, a recent study has shown that, for squamates, a group of reptiles that includes lizards and snakes, there are no consistent global correlations between body size and climate.
Several competing hypotheses have tried to explain the role of climate in body size evolution. The heat conservation hypothesis posits that larger body sizes in endotherm animals, which generate body heat internally, are more beneficial for heat conservation in colder, higher latitudes. This is because heat is lost more slowly as the surface-area-to-volume ratio diminishes.
Water - Availability - Hypothesis - Body - Sizes
The water availability hypothesis suggests that larger body sizes are also beneficial for conserving water in dry habitats because the larger surface- area-to-volume ratio means they do not readily lose as much water. However, there is very little evidence that these patterns are true for ectotherms, animals that rely on external sources for body heat, such as reptiles.
Researchers from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak collaborated with an international team of scientists to investigate these hypotheses in squamates. They used multiple analytical approaches to test the role of temperature, precipitation, seasonality and food availability as drivers of body mass using existing size and distribution data on more than 9,000...
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