Navigation Links
Scientists discover reasons behind snakes' 'shrinking heads'
Date:3/20/2013

An international team of scientists led by Dr Kate Sanders from the University of Adelaide, and including Dr Mike Lee from the South Australian Museum, has uncovered how some sea snakes have developed 'shrunken heads' or smaller physical features than their related species.

Their research is published today in the journal Molecular Ecology (doi: 10.1111/mec.12291).

A large head "all the better to eat you with" - would seem to be indispensable to sea snakes, which typically have to swallow large spiny fish. However, there are some circumstances where it wouldn't be very useful: sea snakes that feed by probing their front ends into narrow, sand eel burrows have evolved comically small heads.

The team has shown normal-shaped sea snakes can evolve such "shrunken heads" very rapidly. This process can rapidly lead to speciation (one species splitting into two). The small-headed populations are also much smaller in absolute size than their ancestors, and these shape and size differences mean they tend to avoid interbreeding with their large-headed ancestors.

Dr Lee says, "A team led by my colleague Dr Kate Sanders at the University of Adelaide has been investigating genetic differences across all sea snakes, and we noticed that the blue-banded sea snake (Hydrophis cyanocinctus) and the slender-necked sea snake (Hydrophis melanocephalus) were almost indistinguishable genetically, despite being drastically different in size and shape.

"The slender-necked sea snake is half the size, and has a much smaller head, than the blue-banded sea snake.

"This suggested they separated very recently from a common ancestral species and had rapidly evolved their different appearances. One way this could have happened is if the ancestral species was large-headed, and a population rapidly evolved small heads to probe eel burrows - and subsequently stopped interbreeding with the large-headed forms."

Dr Sanders says the research could have wider implications in other scientific studies: "our results highlight the viviparous sea snakes as a promising system for studies of speciation and adaptive radiation in marine environments."


'/>"/>

Contact: Dr. Michael Lee
Mike.Lee@samuseum.sa.gov.au
61-882-077-568
University of Adelaide
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. U of T scientists map genome that causes Dutch Elm Disease
2. Scientists discover novel chemical that controls cell behavior
3. 87 scientists elected to the American Academy of Microbiology
4. New book celebrates women scientists in the Americas
5. Stanford scientists calculate the carbon footprint of grid-scale battery technologies
6. Scientists discover distant relatives of gardeners friend
7. Monell scientists help identify a missing link in taste perception
8. UF scientists discover new crocodilian, hippo-like species from Panama
9. UT Southwestern scientists make mouse model of human cancer, demonstrate cure
10. Sea lamprey genome mapped with help from scientists at OU
11. Sequestration will be a devastating blow to the nations research institutions and scientists
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:6/27/2016)... , June 27, 2016 Research and Markets ... America 2016-2020" report to their offering. ... North America to grow at a CAGR of 12.28% ... prepared based on an in-depth market analysis with inputs from industry ... over the coming years. The report also includes a discussion of ...
(Date:6/22/2016)... 2016  The American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics ... as one of the fastest-growing trade shows during the ... Bellagio in Las Vegas . ... growth in each of the following categories: net square feet ... of attendees. The 2015 ACMG Annual Meeting was ranked 23 ...
(Date:6/22/2016)... 22, 2016   Acuant , the ... solutions, has partnered with RightCrowd ® ... Visitor Management, Self-Service Kiosks and Continuous Workforce ... add functional enhancements to existing physical access ... venues with an automated ID verification and ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... ... June 27, 2016 , ... ... innovative medical technologies, services and solutions to the healthcare market. The company's primary ... various distribution, manufacturing, sales and marketing strategies that are necessary to help companies ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... , June 24, 2016  Regular discussions on a range ... place between the two entities said Poloz. Speaking ... Ottawa , he pointed to the country,s inflation ... federal government. "In ... "Both institutions have common economic goals, why not sit down ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... of its second eBook, “Clinical Trials Patient Recruitment and Retention Tips.” Partnering with ... in this eBook by providing practical tips, tools, and strategies for clinical researchers. ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... June 23, 2016 A person commits a crime, ... scene to track the criminal down. An outbreak ... and Drug Administration (FDA) uses DNA evidence to track down ... Sound far-fetched? It,s not. The FDA has increasingly used ... investigations of foodborne illnesses. Put as simply as possible, whole ...
Breaking Biology Technology: