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Proc Biol Sci. 2010 Apr 22;277(1685):1227-34. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2009.1958. Epub 2009 Dec 16.

Diversity trends and their ontogenetic basis: an exploration of allometric disparity in rodents.

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  • 1Paläontologisches Institut und Museum, Karl Schmid-Strasse 4, 8006 Zürich, Switzerland. laura.wilson@pim.uzh.ch


It has been hypothesized that most morphological evolution occurs by allometric differentiation. Because rodents encapsulate a phenomenal amount of taxonomic diversity and, among several clades, contrasting levels of morphological diversity, they represent an excellent subject to address the question: how variable are allometric patterns during evolution? We investigated the influence of phylogenetic relations and ecological factors on the results of the first quantification of allometric disparity among rodents by exploring allometric space, a multivariate morphospace here derived from, and encapsulating all, the ontogenetic trajectories of 34 rodent species from two parallel phylogenetic radiations. Disparity was quantified using angles between ontogenetic trajectories for different species and clades. We found an overlapping occupation of allometric space by muroid and hystricognath species, revealing both clades possess similar abilities to evolve in different directions of phenotypic space, and anatomical diversity does not act to constrain the labile nature of allometric patterning. Morphological features to enable efficient processing of food serve to group rodents in allometric space, reflecting the importance of convergent morphology, rather than shared evolutionary history, in the generation of allometric patterns. Our results indicate that the conserved level of morphological integration found among primates cannot simply be extended to all mammals.

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