Contributions to Zoology, 82 (2) – 2013Ana Ivanovic; Gregor Aljancic; Jan W. Arntzen: Skull shape differentiation of black and white olms (Proteus anguinus anguinus and Proteus a. parkelj): an exploratory analysis with micro-CT scanning

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We performed an exploratory analysis of the morphology of the cranium in the white olm (Proteus anguinus anguinus) and the black olm (P. a. parkelj) with micro-CT scanning and geometric morphometrics. The mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus) was used as an outgroup. The black olm falls outside the white olm morphospace by a markedly wider skull, shorter vomers which are positioned further apart and by laterally positioned squamosals and quadrates relative to the palate (the shape of the buccal cavity). On account of its robust skull with more developed premaxillae a shorter otico-occipital region, the black olm is positioned closer to Necturus than are the studied specimens of the white olm. The elongated skull of the white olm, with an anteriorly positioned jaw articulation point, could be regarded as an adaptation for improved feeding success, possibly compensating for lack of vision. As yet, the alternative explanations on the evolution of troglomorphism in Proteus are an extensive convergence in white olms versus the reverse evolution towards less troglomorphic character states in the black olm. To further understand the evolutionary trajectories within Proteus we highlight the following hypotheses for future testing: i) morphological differentiation is smaller within than between genetically differentiated white olm lineages, and ii) ontogenetic shape changes are congruent with the shape changes between lineages. We anticipate that the morphological detail and analytical power that come with the techniques we here employed will assist us in this task.