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Allometry and sexual dimorphism in the lung morphology of prairie rattlesnakes, Crotalus viridis viridis

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image of Amphibia-Reptilia

We quantified sexual dimorphism and allometric changes in the lung morphology of 160 juvenile and adult specimens of prairie rattlesnake, Crotalus viridis viridis, from a single population. In virtually all lung components, those of males are located more posteriorly than are those of females of the same body size. Males display a longer vascular component than females but there is no sexual dimorphism in size of the avascular component. Thus, males generally have longer lungs than do females at all body sizes. With increasing body size, the lung components are found more anteriorly, relative length of the vascular lung decreases, and relative length of the avascular lung increases in both sexes. However, total lung length increases isometrically with body size. These sexual and allometric differences suggest that intraspecific variation should be taken into account when lung size characters are used in snake systematic studies.

Affiliations: 1: Division of Botany and Zoology, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia, Email:; 2: Center for Vertebrate Studies, Department of Biology, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02138, USA


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