Amerotyphlops brongersmianus (Vanzolini, 1976) (Typhlopidae, Serpentes) as a model for scolecophidian ontogenetic shifts of heart topography and relative size


Ontogenetic shifts in the snake heart topography are mostly associated with their life habits and physiological adaptations due to modifications of complex functional-adaptative and developmental constraints. However, such studies are incipient for scolecophidians, and the presence of shifts putatively related to physiological mechanisms are still unexplored for this group. We aimed to evaluate the presence of topological shifts in heart position and the allometry of heart/chambers total length in Amerotyphlops brongersmianus. Our results indicate that there is a craniad ontogenetic shift of the heart position related to total length increase. Heart total length and their chambers also grow isometrically in relation to head and total body length. We discuss the possible functional and evolutionary perspectives of our results with comparison to data available for alethinophidan snakes. We hypothesize the anterior displacement of organs possibly remains as an ancestral state to compensate reproductive constraints imposed by the ancestral scolecoid miniaturized body.

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Availability of data and material (data transparency)

All specimens analyzed herein are housed at the Reptile Collection at the MNRJ/UFRJ.


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All analyzed specimens are part of the monitoring project of the program Pesquisas Ecológicas de Longa Duração (PELD): Mudanças Climáticas Globais e o Funcionamento dos Ecossistemas Costeiros da Bacia de Campos: uma perspectiva espaçotemporal (Long Term Ecological Research program: Global Climate Changes and the Functioning of Coastal Ecosystems in the Bacia de Campos: A space–time perspective), initiated in August 2013 and subsidized by the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq). The specimens were collected under permit #38378–11, granted by the Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade (ICMBio). We thank P. Passos, M. Woitovicz-Cardoso and P. Pinna for allowing the use of specimens under their care. Furthermore, we are grateful to D.S. Fernandes, M.W. Cardoso, P. Pinna and all the herpetological team of the Jurubatiba PELD project, for collecting the specimens. Angele Martins was supported by Fundação Carlos Chagas Filho de Amparo à Pesquisa no Estado do Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ, E-26/202.403/2017). We thank D. Faustino for support with figures, and A. Simmons for English revision. We are very grateful to V. Wallach for the suggestions, improvements and provision of his unpublished data to the manuscript.


Angele Martins was supported by Fundação Carlos Chagas Filho de Amparo à Pesquisa no Estado do Rio de Janeiro (#E-26/202.403/2017). Laryssa Silva was supported by the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnoló¬gico (AT-NM: 371064/2018-0).

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AM has contributed in the study conceptualization, formal analysis, methodology, project administration, supervision and manuscript writing/revision. RCG contributed in conceptualization, formal analysis, methodology and manuscript writing/revision. LS contributed with data collection and on the conceptualization, methodology and manuscript revision.

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Correspondence to Angele Martins.

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Martins, A., Silva, L. & Gonzalez, R.C. Amerotyphlops brongersmianus (Vanzolini, 1976) (Typhlopidae, Serpentes) as a model for scolecophidian ontogenetic shifts of heart topography and relative size. Zoomorphology (2020).

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  • Heart position
  • Ontogeny
  • Scolecophidia
  • Visceral topography
  • Organ topography