ArbourZanno_ESM8_discrete_results.xlsx from The evolution of tail weaponization in amniotes
2018-01-02T11:10:12Z (GMT) by
Weaponry, for the purpose of intraspecific combat or predator defence, is one of the most widespread animal adaptations, yet the selective pressures and constraints governing its phenotypic diversity and skeletal regionalization are not well understood. Here, we investigate the evolution of tail weaponry in amniotes, a rare form of weaponry that nonetheless evolved independently among a broad spectrum of life including mammals, turtles and dinosaurs. Using comparative methods, we test for links between morphology, ecology and behaviour in extant amniotes known to use the tail as a weapon, and in extinct taxa bearing osseous tail armaments. We find robust ecological and morphological correlates of both tail lashing behaviour and bony tail weaponry, including large body size, body armour and herbivory, suggesting these life-history parameters factor into the evolution of antipredator behaviours and tail armaments. We suggest that the evolution of tail weaponry is rare because large, armoured herbivores are uncommon in extant terrestrial faunas, as they have been throughout evolutionary history.