Sexual dimorphism in the African legless skink subfamily Acontiinae (Reptilia: Scincidae)

Heideman N.J.L ; Daniels S.R. ; Mashinini P.L. ; Mokone M.E. ; Thibedi M.L. ; Hendricks M.G.J. ; Wilson B.A. ; Douglas R.M. (2008)


The extent to which sexual dimorphism in snout-vent length, tail length and head shape (length, width and height) manifests itself in the legless fossorial skink subfamily Acontiinae was investigated in representatives of all four of its genera, Acontias, Microacontias, Acontophiops and Typhlosaurus. Where data were available fecundity selection and diet partitioning (ecological causation) were tested as possible proximate causes for dimorphisms found. The possibility of a relationship between head shape and microhabitat density was also investigated. The data showed that significant sexual dimorphism in snout-vent length and head shape was present in only a minority of taxa and that it was absent with respect to tail length. There are indications of a relationship between head shape and microhabitat density, and head shape seems to become increasingly more pointed as SVL increases. A serious impediment to placing the findings of this study into a firm evolutionary context is the general lack of information about the ecology, social organization and behaviour of the taxa.

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