Gomes V, Carretero MA, Kaliontzopoulou A (2016) The relevance of morphology for habitat use and locomotion in two species of wall lizards. Acta Oecologica 70:87–95. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actao.2015.12.005

Understanding if morphological differences between organisms that occupy different environments are associated to differences in functional performance can suggest a functional link between environmental and morphological variation. In this study we examined three components of the ecomorphological paradigm – morphology, locomotor performance and habitat use – using two syntopic wall lizards endemic to the Iberian Peninsula as a case study to establish whether morphological variation is associated with habitat use and determine the potential relevance of locomotor performance for such an association. Differences in habitat use between both lizards matched patterns of morphological variation. Indeed, individuals of Podarcis guadarramae lusitanicus, which are more flattened, used more rocky environments, whereas Podarcis bocagei, which have higher heads, used more vegetation than rocks. These patterns translated into a significant association between morphology and habitat use. Nevertheless, the two species were only differentiated in some of the functional traits quantified, and locomotor performance did not exhibit an association with morphological traits. Our results suggest that the link between morphology and habitat use is mediated by refuge use, rather than locomotor performance, in this system, and advise caution when extrapolating morphology-performance-environment associations across organisms.

Carneiro, D., E. García-Muñoz, A. Kaliontzopoulou, G. A. Llorente & M. A. Carretero (2015) Salamandra 51(4). pp. 335-344.

In ectotherms, environmental factors shape the distribution of species mediated by ecophysiological constraints such as thermal requirements and water stress. Species with different distributions along an environmental gradient are expected to show contrasting  responses in thermal-gradient and water-stress lab experiments. We examined basic thermal and hydric physiological traits throughout the day in two related lizard species with different, but partially overlapping, distributions in the Iberian Peninsula: Podarcis liolepis (abundant but mostly restricted to northeastern Iberia) and P. muralis (restricted in Iberia but widespread across Europe). We expected P. liolepis to opt for higher preferred body temperatures and have lower water loss rates as compared to P. muralis. Surprisingly, results revealed no differences in preferred body temperatures between species or sexes. Conversely, interspecific differences in the temporal profiles of water
loss were found. Results suggest that water availability rather than thermal environment shapes the biogeographical patterns of both species.

Rato C, Harris DJ, Perera A, Carvalho SB, Carretero MA, Rödder D (2015) A Combination of Divergence and Conservatism in the Niche Evolution of the Moorish Gecko, Tarentola mauritanica (Gekkota: Phyllodactylidae). PLoS ONE 10(5): e0127980. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0127980

The quantification of realized niche overlap and the integration of species distribution models (SDMs) with calibrated phylogenies to study niche evolution are becoming not only powerful tools to understand speciation events, but can also be used as proxies regarding the delimitation of cryptic species. We applied these techniques in order to unravel how the fundamental niche evolved during cladogenesis within the Tarentola mauritanica species-complex. Our results suggest that diversification within this complex, during the Miocene and Pleistocene, is associated with both niche divergence and niche conservatism, with a pattern that varies depending on whether the variables involved are related to the mean or seasonality of temperature and humidity. Moreover, climatic variables related to humidity and temperature seasonality were involved in the niche shift and genetic diversification of the European/North African clade during the Pleistocene and in its maintenance in a fundamental niche distinct from that of the remaining members of the group. This study further highlights the need for a taxonomic revision of the Tmauritanica species-complex