Craniofacial Allometry is a Rule in Evolutionary Radiations of Placentals

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Abstract

It has been suggested that larger species of mammals tend to become long-faced when they diverge in size during an evolutionary radiation. However, whether this allometric pattern, reminiscent of ontogenetic changes in skull proportions, is indeed a rule has yet to be thoroughly tested. Using ~ 6000 adult specimens from 14 phylogenetically well separated and ecomorphologically distinctive lineages, 11 orders, and all superorders of the placentals, I tested each group for positive craniofacial allometry (CREA). The evidence supporting CREA is overwhelming, with virtually all analyses showing proportionally longer faces in bigger species. This corroborates previous studies in other groups, consolidates CREA as a pervasive morphological trend in placental evolution and opens important research avenues for connecting micro- and macro-evolution. If found in even more lineages of non-placental mammals, confirmed in birds, and possibly discovered in other tetrapods, CREA could become one of the most general rules of morphological evolution in land vertebrates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-248
Number of pages10
JournalEvolutionary Biology
Volume46
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2019

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