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PLoS One. 2015 Oct 28;10(10):e0141794. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0141794. eCollection 2015.

Exploring the Relationship between Skeletal Mass and Total Body Mass in Birds.

Author information

1
Ocean and Earth Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, Hampshire, United Kingdom; School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom.
2
MTA-DE "Lendület" Behavioural Ecology Research Group, Department of Evolutionary Zoology, University of Debrecen, Debrecen, Hungary; Faculty of Biology and Geology, Babes Bolyai University, Cluj Napoca, Romania.
3
Ocean and Earth Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, Hampshire, United Kingdom.
4
Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
5
School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom.
6
Ocean and Earth Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, Hampshire, United Kingdom; MTA-DE "Lendület" Behavioural Ecology Research Group, Department of Evolutionary Zoology, University of Debrecen, Debrecen, Hungary.

Abstract

Total body mass (TBM) is known to be related to a number of different osteological features in vertebrates, including limb element measurements and total skeletal mass. The relationship between skeletal mass and TBM in birds has been suggested as a way of estimating the latter in cases where only the skeleton is known (e.g., fossils). This relationship has thus also been applied to other extinct vertebrates, including the non-avian pterosaurs, while other studies have used additional skeletal correlates found in modern birds to estimate TBM. However, most previous studies have used TBM compiled from the literature rather than from direct measurements, producing values from population averages rather than from individuals. Here, we report a new dataset of 487 extant birds encompassing 79 species that have skeletal mass and TBM recorded at the time of collection or preparation. We combine both historical and new data for analyses with phylogenetic control and find a similar and well-correlated relationship between skeletal mass and TBM. Thus, we confirm that TBM and skeletal mass are accurate proxies for estimating one another. We also look at other factors that may have an effect on avian body mass, including sex, ontogenetic stage, and flight mode. While data are well-correlated in all cases, phylogeny is a major control on TBM in birds strongly suggesting that this relationship is not appropriate for estimating the total mass of taxa outside of crown birds, Neornithes (e.g., non-avian dinosaurs, pterosaurs). Data also reveal large variability in both bird skeletal and TBM within single species; caution should thus be applied when using published mass to test direct correlations with skeletal mass and bone lengths.

PMID:
26509531
PMCID:
PMC4625084
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0141794
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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