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Evolution. 2006 Jan;60(1):169-83.

Morphological integration in the carnivoran skull.

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Committee on Evolutionary Biology, University of Chicago and Department of Geology, The Field Museum, Illinois 60605, USA.


The correlated evolution of traits may be a principal factor in morphological evolution, but it is typically studied in genetic or developmental systems. Most studies examining phenotypic trait correlations, through analysis of morphological integration, consider only few taxa, with limited ability to test hypotheses of the influence of trait integration on morphological variation and diversity. The few comparative studies in less inclusive groups have yielded varying relationships of integration to the key factors of phylogeny and diet. In this paper, I present analyses of cranial morphological integration in 30 species from the mammalian order Carnivora, spanning eight extant families and a wide range of ecological and morphological diversity. Fifty-five cranial landmarks were captured through three-dimensional digitization of 15-22 specimens for each species. Using a node-based phylogenetic distance matrix, a significant correlation was found between similarity in patterns of integration and phylogenetic relatedness within Felidae (cats) and Canidae (dogs), but not within more inclusive clades, when size-related variation was removed. When size was included, significant correlations were found across all Caniformia, Musteloidea, Mustelidae, and Felidae. There was a significant correlation between phylogeny and morphological integration only within the higher-level clade Feliformia (cats, civets, mongooses, and hyaenas) when a branch-length-based phylogenetic distance matrix was analyzed, with and without size. In contrast, diet was significantly correlated with similarity in morphological integration in arctoid carnivorans (bears, raccoons, and weasels), but had no significant relationship with integration in feliforms or canids. These results support the proposition that evolutionary history is correlated with cranial integration across large clades, although in some smaller clades diet also exerts significant influence on the correlated evolution of traits.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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