Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis


W.M. Keck Science Department

Second Department


Reader 1

Lars Schmitz

Reader 2

Donald McFarlane

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Rights Information

© 2014 Zoe M. Kao


The morphologies and behaviors of animals evolve and diversify, filling ecological niches in their environments. In this study I examine how a morphological trait, body mass, and three ecological traits, namely diel activity patterns, diving/non-diving locomotion, and diet, evolve in the Anseriformes (waterfowl). Through ancestral state reconstructions using a maximum likelihood approach the evolution of these traits was compared to see if any patterns of trait coevolution emerged. Body mass was compared to each ecological trait using a phylogenetic ANOVA to test if there were body size differences between ecological groups. The pattern of male and female body mass evolution across the clade was found to be remarkably similar, indicating that selection effected body mass in similar ways between the sexes. Diving locomotion appears to be the ancestral state for Anseriformes with non-diving independently evolving probably five times. The ancestral state of diet appears to be either herbivory or omnivory, with carnivory secondarily evolving twice independently. For diel activity patterns, the ancestral state reconstruction showed little resolution at the internal nodes, indicating the high degree of plasticity in this trait among the species studied. Body mass in both males and females was not significantly correlated with any particular diet, diving locomotion, or diel activity pattern.