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Am J Phys Anthropol. 2010 Sep;143(1):1-12. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.21341.

Genetic and environmental contributions to variation in baboon cranial morphology.

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Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.


The development, function, and integration of morphological characteristics are all hypothesized to influence the utility of traits for phylogenetic reconstruction by affecting the way in which morphological characteristics evolve. We use a baboon model to test the hypotheses about phenotypic and quantitative genetic variation of traits in the cranium that bear on a phenotype's propensity to evolve. We test the hypotheses that: 1) individual traits in different functionally and developmentally defined regions of the cranium are differentially environmentally, genetically, and phenotypically variable; 2) genetic covariance with other traits constrains traits in one region of the cranium more than those in others; 3) and regions of the cranium subject to different levels of mechanical strain differ in the magnitude of variation in individual traits. We find that the levels of environmental and genetic variation in individual traits are randomly distributed across regions of the cranium rather than being structured by developmental origin or degree of exposure to strain. Individual traits in the cranial vault tend to be more constrained by covariance with other traits than those in other regions. Traits in regions subject to high degrees of strain during mastication are not any more variable at any level than other traits. If these results are generalizable to other populations, they indicate that there is no reason to suppose that individual traits from any one part of the cranium are intrinsically less useful for reconstructing patterns of evolution than those from any other part.

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