Thorny devil By Christopher Watson (httpwww.comebirdwatching.blogspot.com) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (httpcreativecommons.orglicensesby-sa3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

From legless to spikey: How the weird bodies of Aussie animals evolved

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From thorny devils and legless lizards to the tiny sugar glider, the weird and wonderful body shapes of Australian animals have something in common: their amazing range of body shapes evolved early in each group's history, and this evolution slowed considerably in the last 10 million years, according to Aussie research. These slowdowns occurred as the climate cooled and the 'Outback' as we know it spread across the land replacing ancient forests. The researchers say their results highlight the importance changes in the global climate may have on the evolution of diverse body forms.

Journal/conference: Proceedings of the Royal Society B

Organisation/s: The Australian National University

Funder: This work has been funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery grant no. (ARC DP150102403) to J.S.K., and an Australian National University International Postgraduate Research Scholarship to I.G.B.

Media Release

From: The Royal Society

Miocene biome turnover drove conservative body size evolution across Australian vertebrates 

For many, Australia is a distant land of unique and bizarre animals. For biologists, it is a laboratory for the study of organismal evolution. Our research points out that the amazing diversity in body forms of Australian vertebrates (sugar-gliders and thylacines, frilled-neck lizards and thorny devils) evolved early in each group’s history, and slowed considerably in the last 10 million years. These slowdowns occurred as the global temperature gradually dropped, and “Outback” Australia expanded as ancient forests across the continent disappeared. Our results highlight the importance changes in the global climate may have on the evolution of diverse organismal forms. Contact: Mr Ian Brennan, Australian National University, ian.brennan@anu.edu.au, +61410735991

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