Unveiling the cryptic morphology and ontogeny of the Colombian Caiman crocodilus: a geometric morphometric approach



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Springer Verlag


Caiman crocodilus is an alligatoroid broadly distributed in the neotropics from Mexico to Brazil, where Colombia is the only country that has the complete subspecies complex distributed in its territory. This species has been the focus of many genetic, ecological and morphological studies. However, these studies are limited to traditional morphology methods or have limitations to examine interspecific variation among the four subspecies reported in Colombia. This is the first study of intraspecific variation in the skull of Caiman crocodilus complex distributed in Colombia, using a two-dimensional approach of geometric morphometric on 122 post-hatching ontogenetic cranial series. Morphological differences between species and changes during ontogeny (snout increases its length and, skull roof and orbits decrease their proportions) that represents part of morphological changes in the cranial ontogeny of crocodilians were found. In the morphospace, there was a significant differentiation of C. crocodilus apaporiensis and C. crocodilus crocodilus from C. crocodilus fuscus and C. crocodilus chiapasius. Results from this study revealed that C. crocodilus apaporiensis is a differentiated group from the global complex as well as that the specimens of C. crocodilus chiapasius collected from Medem in Colombia may be showing cryptic morphology in some traits. © 2019, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


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Caiman crocodilus, Colombian biodiversity, Cranial variation, Geometric morphometrics, Ontogeny