Geometric morphometric techniques were used to examine allometric and non-allometric influences on sexual shape dimorphism (SShD) in the ventral cranium (skull base, palate and upper jaw) of four species of lacertid lizards (Podarcis muralis, Podarcis melisellensis, Dalmatolacerta oxycephala, Dinarolacerta mosorensis). These species differ in body shape, ecology and degree of phylogenetic relatedness. The structures of the ventral cranium that were studied are directly involved in the mechanics of feeding and are connected to the jaw musculature; these structures are potentially subject to both sexual and natural selection. Allometry accounted for a considerable degree of cranial shape variation between the sexes. Allometric shape changes between individuals with smaller cranium size and individuals with larger cranium size are mostly related to changes in the skull base showing pronounced negative allometry. The rostral part, however, either scaled isometrically or showed less pronounced negative allometry than the skull base. Non-allometric intersexual shape variation predominantly involved changes related to the jaw adductor muscle chamber, i.e., changes that are associated with biomechanically relevant traits of the jaw system in females and males. Both allometric and non-allometric shape changes appeared to be species-specific. Our results indicate that natural and sexual selection may be involved in the evolution of SShD.
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