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The evolutionary history of the largest salamander family (Plethodontidae) is characterized by extreme morphological homoplasy. Analysis of the mechanisms generating such homoplasy requires an independent molecular phylogeny. To this end, we sequenced 24 complete mitochondrial genomes (22 plethodontids and two outgroup taxa), added data for three species(More)
The Ensatina eschscholtzii complex of plethodontid salamanders, a well-known "ring species," is thought to illustrate stages in the speciation process. Early research, based on morphology and coloration, has been extended by the incorporation of studies of protein variation and mitochondrial DNA sequences. The new data show that the complex includes a(More)
Nearly 70% of the 535 species of salamanders in the world are members of a single family, the Plethodontidae, or lungless salamanders. The centre of diversity for this clade is North and Middle America, where the vast majority (99%) of species are found. We report the discovery of the first Asian plethodontid salamander, from montane woodlands in(More)
Comparative neuroanatomists since Herrick [1914] have been aware of the paradox that the brain of amphibians, especially salamanders, is less complex than one would expect based on their phylogenetic position among the Tetrapoda. Many features of the brain are less differentiated in salamanders than in tetrapod outgroups, including chondrichthyans and bony(More)
Adding a causal, mechanistic dimension to the study of character evolution will increase the strength of inferences regarding the evolutionary history of characters and their adaptive consequences. This approach has the advantage of illuminating mechanism and testing evolutionary hypotheses rigorously. We consider the advantages of combining mechanistic and(More)
Salamanders are infrequently mentioned in analyses of tetrapod limb formation, as their development varies considerably from that of amniotes. However, urodeles provide an opportunity to study how limb ontogeny varies with major differences in life history. Here we assess limb development in Desmognathus aeneus, a direct-developing salamander, and compare(More)
Understanding the diversification of phenotypes through time--"descent with modification"--has been the focus of evolutionary biology for 150 years. If, contrary to expectations, similarity evolves in unrelated taxa, researchers are guided to uncover the genetic and developmental mechanisms responsible. Similar phenotypes may be retained from common(More)
Compared to other vertebrates, even including lampreys and hagfishes in some respects, salamanders exhibit a relatively simple organization of brain and sense organs which is illustrated here using the visual system as an example. The greatest simplicity is found in the bolitoglossine salamanders, yet all bolitoglossines possess highly projectile tongues(More)
The morphological organization of the brain of frogs and salamanders varies greatly in the degree to which it is subdivided and differentiated. Members of these taxa are visually oriented predators, but the morphological complexity of the visual centers in the brain varies interspecifically. We give evidence that the morphological complexity of the(More)
Plethodontid salamanders capture prey by projecting the tongue from the mouth. An analysis of theoretical mechanics of the hyobranchial skeleton is used to formulate a working hypothesis of tongue movements. Predictions that the skeletal elements of the tongue are included in the projectile and that the hyobranchial skeleton is folded during projection are(More)