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The study of larval tail morphology reveals differentiation between two Triturus species and their hybrids

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In amphibians, morphological differentiation and disparity at the larval and post-metamorphic ontogenetic stages can diverge, owing to various contrasting environments and different selective pressures. In the monophyletic clade of nine Triturus newt species, five different morphotypes can be recognized, but information on larval morphology is limited. Here we explore divergence of larval morphology in Triturus ivanbureschi, T. macedonicus, and their F1 hybrids. These two genetically and morphologically distinct crested newt species hybridize in nature and form a relatively wide hybrid zone in the central part of the Balkan Peninsula. Using a geometric morphometric approach and multivariate statistics, we evaluated differences of tail size and shape, colouration pattern, and the presence of a tail filament at the mid-larval stage in larvae reared under controlled laboratory conditions. We chose the tail as the main propulsive organ crucial for locomotion, feeding, and escaping predators. We found that Triturus ivanbureschi and T. macedonicus larvae differ in tail shape, but not in tail size. Two groups of F1 hybrid larvae (obtained from reciprocal crossing) were similar to each other, but differed from the parental species in size and shape of the tail, colouration pattern, and the presence of a tail filament. Our results indicate that, like adults, larvae diverge morphologically and hybrid larvae do not exhibit intermediate morphology of the parental species.

Affiliations: 1: 1Department of Evolutionary Biology, Institute for Biological Research “Siniša Stanković”, University of Belgrade, Bulevar Despota Stefana 142, 11060 Belgrade, Serbia ; 2: 2Institute of Zoology, Faculty of Biology, University of Belgrade, Studentski trg 16, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia

*Corresponding author; e-mail:

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