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What lies beneath? Molecular evolution during the radiation of caecilian amphibians
Gower, David J.
Creevey, Christopher J.
San Mauro, Diego
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Evolution leaves an imprint in species through genetic change. At the molecular level, evolutionary changes can be explored by studying ratios of nucleotide substitutions. The interplay among molecular evolution, derived phenotypes, and ecological ranges can provide insights into adaptive radiations. Caecilians (order Gymnophiona), probably the least known of the major lineages of vertebrates, are limbless tropical amphibians, with adults of most species burrowing in soils (fossoriality). This enigmatic order of amphibians are very distinct phenotypically from other extant amphibians and likely from the ancestor of Lissamphibia, but little to nothing is known about the molecular changes underpinning their radiation. We hypothesised that colonization of various depths of tropical soils and of freshwater habitats presented new ecological opportunities to caecilians.