Jeremy Wilson

and 4 more

Understanding the drivers of morphological convergence requires investigation into its relationship with behavior and niche-space, and such investigations in turn provide insights into evolutionary dynamics, functional morphology, and life history. Mygalomorph spiders (trapdoor spiders and their kin) have long been associated with high levels of homoplasy, and many convergent features can be intuitively associated with different behavioral niches. Using genus-level phylogenies based on recent genomic studies and a newly assembled matrix of discrete behavioral and somatic morphological characters, we reconstruct the evolution of burrowing behavior in the Mygalomorphae, compare the influence of behavior and evolutionary history on somatic morphology, and test hypotheses of correlated evolution between specific morphological features and behavior. Our results reveal the simplicity of the mygalomorph adaptive landscape, with opportunistic, web-building taxa at one end, and burrowing/nesting taxa with structurally-modified burrow entrances (e.g., a trapdoor) at the other. Shifts in behavioral niche, in both directions, are common across the evolutionary history of the Mygalomorphae, and several major clades include taxa inhabiting both behavioral extremes. Somatic morphology is heavily influenced by behavior, with taxa inhabiting the same behavioral niche often more similar morphologically than more closely-related but behaviorally-divergent taxa, and we were able to identify a suite of 11 somatic features that show significant correlation with particular behaviors. We discuss these findings in light of the function of particular morphological features, niche dynamics within the Mygalomorphae, and constraints on the mygalomorph adaptive landscape relative to other spiders.