Supplementary methods and results from Substrate use drives the macroevolution of mammalian tail morphological diversity.
journal contributionposted on 31.01.2020, 10:13 by Sarah T. Mincer, Gabrielle A. Russo
External length is one of the most conspicuous aspects of mammalian tail diversity. Factors that influence the evolution of tail morphological diversity have been proposed for particular taxa, including habitat, diet, locomotion and climate. However, no study to date has investigated such factors at a large phylogenetic scale to elucidate what drives tail length evolution in and across mammalian lineages. We use phylogenetic comparative methods to test a priori hypotheses regarding proposed factors influencing tail length, explore possible interactions between factors using evolutionary best-fit models, and map evolutionary patterns of tail length for specific mammalian lineages. Across mammals, substrate use is a significant factor influencing tail length, with arboreal species maintaining selection for longer tails. Non-arboreal species instead exhibit a wider range of tail lengths, secondarily influenced by differences in locomotion, diet and climate. Tail loss events are revealed to occur in the context of both long and short tails and influential factors are clade dependent. Some mammalian groups (e.g. Macaca; primates) exhibit elevated rates of tail length evolution, indicating that morphological evolution may be accelerated in groups characterized by diverse substrate use, locomotor modes and climate.