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J Evol Biol. 2008 Jan;21(1):263-275. doi: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2007.01449.x. Epub 2007 Nov 15.

A geometric morphometric appraisal of beak shape in Darwin's finches.

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Redpath Museum and Department of Biology, McGill University, Montréal, QC, CanadaDepartment of Biology and Graduate Program in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, USA.


Beak size and shape in Darwin's finches have traditionally been quantified using a few univariate measurements (length, depth, width). Here we show the improved inferential resolution of geometric morphometric methods, as applied to three hierarchical levels: (i) among seven species on Santa Cruz Island, (ii) among different sites on Santa Cruz for a single species (Geospiza fortis), and (iii) between large and small beak size morphs of G. fortis at one site (El Garrapatero). Our results support previous studies in finding an axis of shape variation (long/shallow/pointy vs. short/deep/blunt) that separates many of the species. We also detect additional differences among species in the relative sizes and positions of the upper and lower mandibles and in curvature of the mandibles. Small-scale, but potentially relevant, shape variation was also detected among G. fortis from different sites and between sympatric beak size morphs. These results suggest that adaptation to different resources might contribute to diversification on a single island.

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