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Cranial ontogeny of Caluromys philander (Didelphidae: Caluromyinae): A qualitative and quantitative approach


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The ontogeny of skull allometry has been the subject of research in didelphid, microbiotheriid, and dasyurid marsupials. We described and compared postweaning stages of cranial development in the woolly opossum Caluromys philander, a member of a distinct lineage of didelphids. We identified 31 qualitative morphological changes between juveniles and adults, many related to the trophic apparatus. Early development of the paracanine fossa in the snout, correlated with the presence of well-developed canines in juveniles, represents a remarkable difference between the ontogeny of C. philander and other marsupials. We performed bivariate and multi variate analyses of allometry on a data set composed of 14 cranial measurements and 45 specimens. Allometric scaling showed that braincase is relatively small in adulthood, whereas other neurocranial components, particularly the orbit, grew isometrically along its length. The palate becomes elongated by the combination of the isometry of its length and the negative allometry of its width. The rostrum lengthened, but its height remained proportionally constant. In relative terms the temporal fossa expanded inward following the marsupial model that combines the negative allometry of the braincase and the isometry of the zygomatic breadth. The mandible increased in robustness. The skull ontogeny of C. philander shares 4 allometric trends with 2 didelphids (Didelphis albiventris and Lutreolina eras s ¿ caudata) and two australidelphians (Dromiciops gliroides and Dasyurus albopunctatus). Three of these trends, breadth of palate, breadth of braincase, and height of occipital plate, were allometrically negative, whereas height of the dentary was positive. These common allometric trends may be interpreted as symplesiomorphic for marsupials, suggesting a high degree of conservatism in the skull development of Caluromys and other marsupials.
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Cranial ontogeny of Caluromys philander (Didelphidae:
Caluromyinae): a qualitative and quantitative approach
Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales ‘‘Bernardino Rivadavia,’’ Av. A
´ngel Gallardo 470, CP 1405, Ciudad de Buenos
Aires, Argentina (DAF)
CONICET. Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Cientı
´ficas y Te´cnicas, Argentina (DAF, NG)
Bernard Price Institute for Palaeontological Research, Private Bag 3 WITS 2050, University of the Witwatersrand,
Johannesburg, South Africa (FA)
Division of Vertebrate Zoology (Mammalogy), American Museum of Natural History; Programa de Investigaciones de
Biodiversidad Argentina, Universidad Nacional de Tucuma´n, Argentina (NG)
* Correspondent:
The ontogeny of skull allometry has been the subject of research in didelphid, microbiotheriid, and dasyurid
marsupials. We described and compared postweaning stages of cranial development in the woolly opossum
Caluromys philander, a member of a distinct lineage of didelphids. We identified 31 qualitative morphological
changes between juveniles and adults, many related to the trophic apparatus. Early development of the
paracanine fossa in the snout, correlated with the presence of well-developed canines in juveniles, represents a
remarkable difference between the ontogeny of C. philander and other marsupials. We performed bivariate and
multivariate analyses of allometry on a data set composed of 14 cranial measurements and 45 specimens.
Allometric scaling showed that braincase is relatively small in adulthood, whereas other neurocranial
components, particularly the orbit, grew isometrically along its length. The palate becomes elongated by the
combination of the isometry of its length and the negative allometry of its width. The rostrum lengthened, but its
height remained proportionally constant. In relative terms the temporal fossa expanded inward following the
marsupial model that combines the negative allometry of the braincase and the isometry of the zygomatic
breadth. The mandible increased in robustness. The skull ontogeny of C. philander shares 4 allometric trends
with 2 didelphids (Didelphis albiventris and Lutreolina crassicaudata) and two australidelphians (Dromiciops
gliroides and Dasyurus albopunctatus). Three of these trends, breadth of palate, breadth of braincase, and height
of occipital plate, were allometrically negative, whereas height of the dentary was positive. These common
allometric trends may be interpreted as symplesiomorphic for marsupials, suggesting a high degree of
conservatism in the skull development of Caluromys and other marsupials. DOI: 10.1644/09-MAMM-A-291.1.
Key words: anatomy, Caluromyinae, ontogeny, skull allometry
E2010 American Society of Mammalogists
Recent studies on cranial ontogeny in several groups of
marsupials were focused on functional interpretations from
both a qualitative and quantitatively approach (Abdala et al.
2001; Flores et al. 2003, 2006; Giannini et al. 2004). Such
studies detected complex modifications occurring in the skull
during postweaning ontogeny, accompanying the critical
changes of diet (from milk-fed to the adult trophic function)
during this period. Ontogenetic pattern of 2 related amer-
idelphians (the didelphids Didelphis albiventris and Lutreolina
crassicaudata) and 2 australidelphians (the microbiotheriid
Dromiciops gliroides and the dasyurid Dasyurus albopuncta-
tus—Abdala et al. 2001; Flores et al. 2003, 2006; Giannini et
al. 2004) showed some cranial trends common to all taxa and
presumably to the groups to which they belong, whereas other
trends appeared clearly distinct in each of the studied taxa.
The latter probably represent ontogenetic characteristics of
different marsupial lineages. Interactions between growth of
neurocranial and splanchnocranial components modify func-
tions of the skull linked to the transition to the specific diet of
adults, through developmental stages. In a comparative sense
the common patterns of skull growth in postweaning stages in
taxa studied to date may represent plesiomorphies in the
Journal of Mammalogy, 91(3):539–550, 2010
marsupial clade (e.g., isometry of the muzzle height, negative
allometry of the breadth of braincase and the height of
occipital plate, and positive allometry of the height of the
mandible); i.e., a common developmental pattern inherited
from ancestors at the marsupial root.
On the basis of comparisons of the 2 didelphid species
analyzed to date, we advanced the existence of general cranial
growth trends in the family (Flores et al. 2003). For instance,
the basic ontogenetic plan of skull growth in Didelphinae
would consist of an interaction between neurocranial and
splachnocranial growth trends that provide a wide space for
the large temporal muscles (Flores et al. 2003). Thus the
detection of patterns of cranial growth in groups closely
related to didelphines, such as caluromyines, is essential to
assess a common plan in the growth pattern of didelphids in a
more inclusive phylogenetic context.
Caluromys, along with Caluromysiops and Glironia, is one
of the most basal groups in the Didelphidae. An apparent
consensus exists on its phylogenetic position, on the basis
either of morphological data (Flores 2003, 2009), DNA–DNA
hybridization data (Kirsch et al. 1995), DNA sequence data
(Jansa and Voss 2000; Palma and Spotorno 1999), or a
combination thereof (Creighton 1984; Flores 2009; Reig et al.
1987; Voss and Jansa 2003, 2009). All studies agree in the
significant divergence between caluromyines and the remain-
der of Didelphidae. Thus the comparative study of develop-
ment in this taxon is of special importance for understanding
the evolution of the family (Astu´a de Moraes and Leiner
2008). The postweaning cranial development observed in
Caluromys philander, and those of didelphids, dasyurids, and
microbiotheriids, allowed us to test and expand previous
hypotheses of cranial ontogeny in basal marsupials and
improve our prior generalizations made for Didelphidae
(Flores et al. 2003).
Caluromys philander is a common marsupial of neotropical
rainforests, with well-developed arboreal habits (Atramento-
wicz 1982, 1986, 1995; Charles-Dominique et al. 1981;
Julien-Laferriere 1991; Julien-Laferriere and Atramentowicz
1990). As are most didelphids, the species is omnivorous, with
some marked preference for fruits (Astu´a de Moraes et al.
2003; Charles-Dominique et al. 1981; Julien-Laferriere 1999;
Julien-Laferriere and Atramentowicz 1990; Leite et al. 1996).
Caluromys philander is one of the three species of woolly
opossums living in Central and South America, with body
mass of adult males and females ranging from 300 to 400 g
(Atramentowicz 1995). Breeding patterns and correlation
between absolute age and tooth eruption sequence are well
known (Astu´a de Moraes and Leiner 2008; Atramentowicz
1986). At birth each young is approximately 0.2 g and remains
attached to the teat for about 80 days. Young start eating solid
food at this stage but still depend on milk until approximately
day 120 postpartum, when young become independent
(Atramentowicz 1982, 1995).
Study specimens.—We studied an ontogenetic series of 45
specimens of C. philander of widely different ages housed in
the mammal collection of the American Museum of Natural
History (AMNH). The specimens examined were AMNH
5943-50, 5953, 16955, 16967, 76969, 93529, 94895, 94898,
95525, 95527-8, 95530-5, 95537, 95972, 96623, 96631,
96640, 96650, 96651-2, 139815-6, 169668, 169762, 171380,
174001, 174004, 174006, 203351-2, 208994-5, and 234989.
We focused the study of qualitative changes on the contrast
between juveniles and adults, but we also observed subadults
for anatomical transformations that occur throughout the range
of ages available.
In our sample 14 specimens were collected before achieving
the stage of full adult dentition. Other individuals were adults
of different sizes. The smallest specimen (AMNH 16955, sex
undetermined, condylobasal length of 31.6 mm) has the third
lower (m3) and second upper (M2) molars erupting, and the
third lower (dp3) and upper (dP3) deciduous premolars
present. The largest specimen (AMNH 93529, male) measured
60.1 mm for condylobasal length and exhibited severely worn
cusps. Thus in our sample the smallest individual was only
about one-half the maximum adult size. On the basis of known
sequences of tooth emergence and wear (Astu´a de Moraes and
Leiner 2008; Atramentowicz 1986), our youngest specimen is
approximately 5 months old, whereas the largest specimen
probably was 2 years old (or older).
Study of growth.—In this study we took two descriptive
approaches. First, we contrasted developing features in the
skull of the youngest specimens with those of the oldest on a
qualitative basis (Flores et al. 2006; Table 1). Anatomical
terminology follows primarily Wible (2003). Second, we
followed previous studies on marsupials using a series of 14
linear measurements to estimate allometric growth of skull
components (Abdala et al. 2001; Flores et al. 2003, 2006;
Giannini et al. 2004). These variables represent length, width,
or depth of major skull structures (Fig. 1).
For the quantitative analysis we took 2 methodological
approaches: bivariate and multivariate allometry. In bivariate
studies the scaling of any individual measurement can be
affected strongly by the choice of the independent variable
(Smith 1981; Wayne 1986). In most previous works (Abdala
et al. 2001; Emerson and Bramble 1993; Flores et al. 2003;
Giannini et al. 2004; Wayne 1986) researchers have taken the
total length of the skull, or the condylobasal length, as a proxy
of size for use as an independent variable in allometric studies.
Instead, we used as independent variable one with the least
departure from isometry in our multivariate analyses. This
resulted in an unconventional choice, the length of palate,
which nevertheless guarantees the best approximation to
isometry in the data set. For comparative purposes we also
report results using the condylobasal length as proxy of size.
Bivariate coefficients of allometry can be extremely useful
because they are less affected by sample completeness
(Giannini et al. 2004) and are more directly interpretable in
terms of size-dependent functional relationships (Jungers and
German 1981). In addition, bivariate coefficients can be
derived from simple growth models of each measurement
(Laird 1965; Wayne 1986).
To estimate the change in size of each cranial variable we
used the linear (log
) transformation of the power equation of
growth y~xb1b0e, where yis the variable of interest, b
the y-
intercept, xthe size proxy, b
the slope parameter or bivariate
coefficient of allometry, and ethe error term. We tested
deviations from isometry by means of 2-tailed t-tests, as the
independent variable was normally distributed (Shapiro Wilk
test, w50.98, P50.79). Allometric coefficients are taken to
be isometric whenever they cannot be distinguished statisti-
cally from unity, with afixed at 0.01. Statistically significant
deviations from isometry represented cases of negative
allometry if b
,1.0 and positive allometry if b
.1.0. We
report allometry coefficients calculated by ordinary least-
squares regression (hereafter LS) and reduced major axis
regression (RMA—Abdala et al. 2001; Flores et al. 2003). The
response of each cranial variable to our chosen proxy of size,
the length of palate, was evaluated by the r
In multivariate analysis of allometry size is a latent variable
affecting all measured variables simultaneously. As in our
previous studies, multivariate coefficients of allometry are
obtained from a principal components analysis (PCA) based
on a variance–covariance matrix of all variables (Jolicoeur
1963). This was followed by a resampling strategy using
jackknife pseudovalues of coefficients to generate confidence
intervals (CIs) for the coefficients so obtained (Flores et al.
2006; Giannini et al. 2004). The CI may be inclusive of a
matrix-specific isometric value that depends only on the
number of variables, p, and therefore be statistically
indistinguishable from isometry, or may exclude such value
and therefore be considered significantly allometric. The
isometric value for 14 variables is 0.267 (calculated as 1/p
so instances of allometry included all coefficients whose
TABLE 1.—List of morphological changes detected in a comparison of smallest versus largest specimens of Caluromys philander.
Characters Figure Juvenile Adult
1. Anterior portion of the nasals 3 Wide Narrow
2. Level of upper alveolar line 2 At zygomatic root Ventral to zygomatic root
3. Paracanine fossa 2 Poorly developed Large
4. Incisivomaxillary suture in lateral view 2 Near the anterior margin of the paracanine
fossa, adjacent to last incisor
In the middle of the paracanine fossa,
well separated from last incisor
Palatal region
5. Upper postcanine rows 4 Posteriorly divergent Parallel
6. Major palatine foramen 4 Inconspicuous Small
7. Minor palatine foramen 4 Notch opening laterally Enclosed foramen
8. Postpalatine torus 4 Slightly curved Strongly curved
Orbitotemporal region
9. Postorbital border of frontal 3 Absent Well developed
10. Postorbital constriction 3 Absent Well developed
11. Base of zygomatic process of squamosal 3 Oriented anteriorly Oriented laterally
12. Temporal fossa in dorsal view 3, 4 Narrow Wide
13. Dorsal profile of the skull 2 Higher than level of orbit Level with orbit
14. Temporal line 3 Absent Converging to the caudal tip
15. Anterodorsal portion of the jugal, at the orbit base 4 Not laterally extended Laterally extended
16. Masseteric line of the jugal 2 Absent Present
17. Anterior edge of the orbit 2 Between P2 and dP3 Between P3 and M1
Occipital region
18. Nuchal crest 3 Absent Well developed
19. Occipital condyles 2 Not caudally extended Caudally extended
20. Paracondylar process 2 Small Elongated to the level of the ventral
edge of foramen magnum
Basicranial region
21. Postglenoid process 2 Small Well developed
22. Transverse sinus canal 4 In line with anterior end of tympanic bulla Anterior to the tympanic bulla
23. Glenoid fossa 4 Narrow Laterally expanded
24. Angular process 6 Slightly oriented medially Strongly oriented medially
25. Mandibular foramen 5 Large Small
26. Coronoid crest 5 Robust Weak
27. Dorsal margin of the coronoid process 5 Short anteroposteriorly Long anteroposteriorly
28. Posterior shelf of the masseteric fossa 5 Incipient Well developed
29. Ventral margin of mandibular body 5 Straight Convex
30. Diastema between p1-p2 5 Absent Present, long
31. Articular condyle 6 Narrow Laterally expanded
intervals excluded this value (positive if .0.267, negative if
Giannini et al. (2004) and Flores et al. (2006) followed
Manly’s (1997) suggestion of using trimmed pseudovalues as
an alternative for the calculation of the CI. Trimming the m
largest and msmallest jackknife pseudovalues for each
variable can significantly decrease width of the CI and yield
more realistic allometric estimations (Giannini et al. 2004). If
untrimmed and trimmed CIs differ greatly in width, this can be
interpreted as an indication of extreme pseudovalues affecting
the standard errors. Here we report untrimmed and trimmed
calculations. For the bivariate analyses the computer program
PAST (Hammer et al. 2001) was used. For the multivariate
statistical analysis (PCA +jackknife resampling) the R-script
(R Development Core Team 2008) of Giannini et al. (2009)
was used and is available from the authors.
Qualitative trends.—We identified 31 structures exhibiting
ontogenetic changes between youngest and oldest specimens
of C. philander (Table 1). These included changes in the
rostrum (4 characters), palatal region (4), orbitotemporal
region (9), occiput (3), basicranial region (3), and mandible
(8). Seven of those changes represented the appearance of
structures absent in juveniles (characters 6, 9, 10, 14, 16, 18,
and 30 in Table 1), whereas 11 of them imply completion or
enlargement of structures already present in juveniles
(characters 3, 7, 12, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24, 27, 28, and 31). Three
changes indicated the relative decrease in size of some
structures with age (characters 1, 25, and 26). Finally, 10 more
or less complex reorganizations occurred (characters 2, 4, 5, 8,
11, 13, 15, 17, 22, and 29).
Similar to previous results in morphological analyses of
marsupial ontogeny, several modifications observed in the
skull of C. philander were related to trophic function,
including changes related to the development of masticatory
muscles and safety of the temporomandibular joint at
occlusion. For instance, the paracanine fossa is present but
not well developed in juveniles, and it enlarges considerably
toward adulthood (character 3 in Table 1; Fig. 2). Linked with
this change is the placement of the suture between the
premaxilla and maxilla. In juveniles this suture is located at
the anterior margin of the paracanine fossa, close to the last
upper incisor. In adults the suture has migrated to a position in
the middle of the paracanine fossa (character 4 in Table 1;
Fig. 2). The upper dental series showed a diastema between
the first and second premolars that is present in all the
ontogenetic stages (Fig. 2). By contrast, the first and second
lower premolars are in contact in juveniles and separated by a
large diastema in adults (character 30).
Important morphological changes correlated with the
development of the temporalis muscle include the widening
of the temporal fossae (character 12; Figs. 3 and 4), change in
orientation of the zygomatic process of the squamosal from
anterior to lateral (character 11; Fig. 3, arrow), and the strong
development of the postorbital process (character 9; Fig. 3)
and the sagittal and nuchal crests (character 18; Figs. 2 and 3).
Of these structures, the nuchal crest experienced the most
extreme transformation, perhaps because of its dual condition
of origin and insertion of muscles of the mandible and the
neck, respectively. Associated with this change is the
widening of the dorsal margin of the coronoid process of the
mandible (character 27; Fig. 5).
The development of the masseter muscle also was evident
in several characters, specifically the masseteric line of the
jugal (character 16; Fig. 2), site of origin of the superficial
masseter and present only in adults, and the masseteric fossa
of the mandible, represented as an incipient shelf in juveniles
and a strong and well-developed structure in adults (character
28; Fig. 5). In correlation with the development of the cranial
crests, the dorsal margin of the coronoid process is extended
more craniocaudally in adults (character 27; Fig. 5). Finally,
the angular process of the mandible becomes remarkably more
FIG.1.—Cranial measurements of Caluromys philander used in this
study. Abbreviations: BB, breadth of braincase; BP, breadth of palate;
BZ, zygomatic breadth; HD, height of mandibular body; HM, height
of muzzle; HO, height of occipital plate; LC, length of coronoid
process; LD, length of mandible; LN, length of nasals; LO, length of
orbit; LP, length of lower postcanine row; LT, total length of the
skull; PAL, length of palate; UP, length of upper postcanine row.
robust and mesially extended in adults, increasing the surface
for the insertion of the superficial masseter and the internal
insertion of the medial pterygoid muscle (character 24;
Fig. 6).
Modifications related to adjustments of occlusion included
the displacement of the upper alveolar line, which is leveled
with the zygomatic root in juveniles and ventral to the root in
adults (character 2; Fig. 2). Changes also occurred in the
orientation of the upper postcanine row. In ventral view the
rows are posteriorly divergent in juveniles and subparallel,
with a slight labial convexity, in adults (character 5; Fig. 4).
The adult condition in C. philander in this trait represents a
remarkable difference from other marsupials sampled (Abdala
et al. 2001; Flores et al. 2003, 2006; Giannini et al. 2004).
Development of the bony palate involves the closure of the
minor palatine foramen (character 7; Fig. 4), with its function
probably replaced by the opening of a small major palatine
foramen (character 6; Fig. 4) and the increasing curvature of
the postpalatine torus (character 8; Fig. 4).
Also related to the trophic function is the development of
the paracondylar process of the exoccipital, from which the
posterior belly of the digastric muscle originates and whose
action is depressing the jaw, thus opening the mouth. The
knob present in juveniles was transformed in adults into a
strong process extended ventral to the level of the basioccipital
(character 20; Fig. 2).
FIG.2.—Lateral view of the skull of A) a juvenile, AMNH 96652;
B) subadult, AMNH 203352; and C) adult, AMNH 95529 of
Caluromys philander. Abbreviations: astp, alisphenoid tympanic
process; fr, frontal; iof, infraorbital foramen; M2, second upper
molar; M3, third upper molar; M4, fourth upper molar; mlj,
masseteric line of jugal; mx, maxilla; nc, nuchal crest; oc, occipital
condyle; pa, parietal; pcp, paracondylar process; pgp, postglenoid
process; Pm3, third upper premolar; pmx, premaxilla; pcf, paracanine
fossa; so, supraoccipital; sq, squamosal. Arrows in juvenile and adult
indicate change on the dorsal profile of the braincase. Scale bars 5
10 mm.
FIG.3.—Dorsal view of the skull of A) a juvenile, AMNH 96652;
B) subadult, AMNH 203352; and C) adult, AMNH 95529 of
Caluromys philander. Abbreviations: fr, frontal; la, lacrimal; mx,
maxilla; na, nasal; nc, nuchal crest; pa, parietal; pmx, premaxilla;
poc, postorbital constriction; pop, postorbital process; sco, sutura
coronalis; sfn, sutura frontonasalis; sq, squamosal; so, supraoccipital;
ss, sutura sagittalis; tl, temporal line. Arrows in juvenile and subadult
indicate change of flexure of the zygomatic process of the squamosal.
Scale bars 510 mm.
Some ontogenetic changes reshape the temporomandibular
joint and the mandibular body resistance. These include the
lateral expansion of the articular condyle of the dentary
(character 31; Fig. 6) and the concomitant change of the
glenoid fossa of the squamosal, with an increased contribution
of the jugal (character 23; Fig. 4) and the enlargement of the
FIG.4.—Ventral view of the skull of A) a juvenile, AMNH 96652;
B) subadult, AMNH 203352; and C) adult, AMNH 95529 of
Caluromys philander. Abbreviations: as, alisphenoid; astp, alisphe-
noid tympanic process; bo, basioccipital; bs, basisphenoid; fc,
fenestra cochleae; fo, foramen ovale; gf, glenoid fossa; hf,
hypoglossal foramen; inf, incisive foramen; jf, jugular foramen; ju,
jugal; lpc, lateral palatine crest; M2, second upper molar; M3, third
upper molar; M4, fourth upper molar; mlj, masseteric line of jugal;
mpf, minor palatine foramen; mpn, minor palatine notch; mtmx,
masseteric tuberosity of maxilla; mx, maxilla; pal, palatine; pcf,
paracanine fossa; pcp, paracondylar process; pe, periotic; pgp,
postglenoid process; pmx, premaxilla; ppt, postpalatine torus; pr,
promontorium; sq, squamosal; tc, transverse canal. Scale bars 5
10 mm.
FIG.5.—Lateral view of the lower jaw of A) a juvenile, AMNH
96652; B) subadult, AMNH 203352; and C) adult, AMNH 95529 of
Caluromys philander. Abbreviations: an, angular process; cml, crest
of masseteric line; con, condylar process; cor, coronoid process; m2,
second lower molar; m4, fourth lower molar; maf, masseteric fossa;
mf, mental foramen; ml, posterior shelf of masseteric line. Scale bars
510 mm.
FIG.6.—Occlusal view of the lower jaw of A) a juvenile, AMNH
96652, and B) adult, AMNH 95529 of Caluromys philander.
Abbreviations: an, angular process; con, condylar process; m2,
second lower molar; m4, fourth lower molar. Scale bars 510 mm.
postglenoid process (character 21; Fig. 2). Also important is
the strengthening of the mandibular body (Fig. 5).
The cranium exhibited two remarkable differences between
juveniles and adults: the development of a postorbital
constriction absent in juveniles (character 10; Fig. 3) and the
flattening of the skull roof by which the domed calvaria of
juveniles is leveled with the interorbital surface in adults
(character 13; Fig. 2, arrows). The latter trend could be linked
to changes in the deflection of the rostrum with respect to the
basicranium during ontogeny (Lieberman et al. 2008).
Bivariate allometry.—The fit of the cranial variables
examined to the proxy of size, the length of palate, as
evaluated by the r
coefficient in bivariate regression
(Table 2), varied between 91%(height of mandibular body
and height of muzzle) and 99%(total length of the skull). LS
and RMA showed the same allometric trends in 10 of 13
variables. The 2 methods found isometric trends in 7 variables,
positive allometry in length of nasals, and negative allometry
in breadth of braincase and height of occipital plate (Table 2).
RMA differed from LS in 3 variables (breadth of palate, height
of coronoid process, and height of dentary; Table 2). These
discrepancies are more apparent than real: given that RMA
slopes are always equal to or higher than LS slopes by
definition (RMA 5LS/r, with r1), a negative trend in LS
may become isometric under RMA (e.g., breadth of palate),
and isometric slopes may become positive (e.g., height of
coronoid process). Results using total length of the skull as
proxy of size differed in 3 variables when using the least-
squares method, and in only 1 (breadth of palate) under RMA
(Table 3).
Multivariate allometry.—The first principal component
includes 87.8%of the total variance. Observed multivariate
coefficients of allometry varied widely across variables
(Table 4). Two variables, length of palate and length of
mandible, showed the least observed departure from isometry
(20.001). Therefore, we used the cranial variable, length of
palate, as the proxy of size in bivariate allometry (see above).
Breadth of braincase exhibited the largest departure from
isometry (20.131). Average estimated bias (using absolute
jackknife values) across coefficients calculated from trimmed
and untrimmed values were both small (0.002 and 0.008,
respectively). Extreme pseudovalues did affect jackknife
estimates given that isometry could be rejected in only 4
skull variables using the untrimmed set, as compared with 6
variables if the trimmed set of pseudovalues was used. This
strongly suggests that the breadth of CIs could have been
affected seriously in some variables by those extreme values.
Taking the results from the (m51) trimmed analysis, 3
TABLE 2.—Summary of bivariate regressions using the length of palate as proxy of size (independent variable, see text) in Caluromys
philander. Abbreviations: r
, adjusted coefficient of correlation; b, coefficient of allometry under least squares (LS) or reduced major axis
(RMA); t
, 2-tailed Student’s t-value under null hypothesis of isometry (expected coefficient of allometry under isometry 51; d.f. 543); P
P-value for t
. Symbols indicate isometry (5), positive allometry (+), and negative allometry (2). When in parentheses, the symbol indicates a
marginally nonsignificant allometric trend (0.01 ,P,0.04). Other abbreviations (variable acronyms) as in Fig. 1.
Variable Range (mm) r
LS RMA Allometric trends
UP 10.9–18 0.97 0.93 21.42 0.16 0.98 20.26 0.79 55
BP 9.1–17.6 0.94 0.78 23.37 0.001 0.89 20.26 0.10 25
BB 14.5–20.3 0.96 0.50 216.00 ,0.001 0.54 214.69 ,0.001 22
BZ 18.9–35.9 0.98 1.01 0.32 0.75 1.05 1.2 0.24 55
LN 13.3–25.3 0.98 1.14 2.72 0.009 1.18 3.66 ,0.001 (+)+
HO 8.9–13.9 0.95 0.6 29.42 ,0.001 0.66 27.98 ,0.001 22
LO 9.3–15.9 0.95 0.96 20.69 0.49 1.05 0.71 0.48 55
HM 6–11.3 0.91 0.97 20.26 0.80 1.18 1.75 0.086 55
HC 10.1–20.2 0.94 1.11 1.23 0.23 1.25 2.82 0.007 5(+)
LP 11.2–19.8 0.97 0.94 21.23 0.23 0.99 20.23 0.82 55
HD 3.3–7.7 0.91 1.29 2.18 0.03 1.55 4.18 ,0.001 5+
LD 24.3–43.6 0.98 0.96 20.87 0.39 1.00 0.05 0.96 55
LT 31.6–60.1 0.99 1.04 1.93 0.06 1.05 2.36 0.023 55
TABLE 3.—Comparison of allometric trends using least-squares
(LS) versus reduced major axis (RMA) regression methods for the
length of palate (PAL) versus the total length of the skull (LT) as
independent variable (proxy of body size) in Caluromys philander.
Symbols indicate isometry (5), positive allometry (+), and negative
allometry (2). When in parentheses, the symbol indicates a
marginally nonsignificant allometric trend. Abbreviations for
variables as in Fig. 1. N/A 5nonapplicable.
UP 52 55
BP 22 52
BB 22 22
BZ 55 55
LN (+)5++
HO 22 22
LO 55 55
HM 55 55
LC 55 (+)+
LP 52 55
HD 5+++
LD 52 55
PAL N/A 2N/A 2
LT 5N/A 5N/A
variables (breadth of the palate, breadth of braincase, and
height of the occipital plate) were negatively allometric,
whereas 3 variables (total length of the skull, length of
coronoid process, and height of mandibular body) were
positively allometric. Notably, the set of allometric variables
in the trimmed analysis also includes the total length of the
skull, although this variable includes the expected value under
isometry in the 99%CI of the untrimmed set (Table 4). A
brief comparison of bivariate and multivariate allometry
(Table 5) indicated that the latter shared all but 1 trend
(breadth of palate) with RMA and all but 2 trends (height/
length of coronoid and height of dentary) with LS.
Skull modeling in Caluromys philander.—As a basis for
comparison with other marsupials we collated the various
results from allometric analyzes to interpret the modeling of
the skull in C. philander. The braincase is relatively smaller
toward adulthood, as indicated by the strong negative trend in
breadth of the braincase and height of the occipital plate. By
contrast, another neurocranial component—the orbit—increas-
es its length isometrically, thus keeping the relative size of the
eye socket almost constant in the anteroposterior dimension.
The palate becomes slender as a consequence of the isometry
of its length and the negative allometry of its width. The upper
and lower tooth rows are isometric, despite tooth emergence in
the upper postcanine row being delayed with respect to the
lower row—during ontogeny, tooth count in the lower row
exceeds in 1 element the upper row (Astu´a de Moraes and
Leiner 2008). Taken together, the positive allometry of the
nasal length and the isometry of the height of the muzzle show
that the rostrum elongates while keeping its height propor-
tionally constant. In relative terms the temporal space expands
inward given the braincase negative allometry and the
zygomatic breadth isometry. The mandible changes essentially
by increasing its robustness because the thickness (height) of
mandibular body and the length of the coronoid process
showed a positive trend, whereas the length of the mandibular
body and the lower postcanine row were isometric. The strong
positive allometry of measurements of the mandible is
correlated with the change of diet after weaning to reach an
active mastication in adults, producing critical adjustment in
the mandibular structures committed with the occlusion and its
mechanic demands. For instance, the lateromesial develop-
ment of the mandibular condyle and the positive allometry of
the height of the mandibular body confer great strength and
resistance to the mandible during the postweaning period,
permitting an active mastication of solid food (Figs. 4 and 6).
Although the sagittal crest does not develop to a great extent in
adults, the nuchal crest does develop to a remarkable degree
(Figs. 3 and 4), suggesting the importance of the posterior
fibers of the temporalis muscle acting as part of a lever that
transmits the strongest force component to the canines (Flores
et al. 2003, 2006). This crest also might reflect the presence of
powerful neck muscles (Radinsky 1981).
Comparative cranial ontogeny and allometry.—As in large-
sized marsupials previously studied (Didelphis, Lutreolina,
Dasyurus), most of the ontogenetic changes observed in C.
philander are indicative of a general strengthening of the
masticatory apparatus and cervical musculature. However, the
pattern of development of some features in C. philander is
TABLE 4.—Results of the multivariate analysis of cranial allometry in Caluromys philander. The first three data columns show results using all
specimens. The remainder of the columns show jackknife results calculated with untrimmed and (m51) trimmed sets of pseudovalues (see
Materials and Methods). Allometry coefficient is the corresponding element of the first (unit) eigenvector per variable. The expected coefficient
is the value under isometry (0.267, same for all variables). The observed coefficient is the value obtained with all specimens included (n545).
The resampled coefficient is the first-order jackknife value. Bias is the difference between the resampled and observed coefficients. The
jackknifed 99%confidence interval (CI) is provided; allometric variables are those whose CIs exclude the expected value under isometry
(0.267). Symbols indicate isometry (5), positive allometry (+), and negative allometry (2). When in parentheses, the symbol indicates a
marginally nonsignificant allometric trend. Abbreviations (variable acronyms) as in Fig. 1.
Untrimmed values Trimmed values
coefficient Bias 99%CI
coefficient Bias 99%CI
LT 0.267 0.2808 0.013 0.280 20.0005 0.258–0.303 50.288 0.007 0.276–0.300 +
PAL 0.267 0.2668 20.001 0.266 20.0010 0.246–0.285 50.268 0.001 0.254–0.282 5
UP 0.267 0.2497 20.017 0.251 0.0009 0.206–0.295 50.249 20.001 0.222–0.276 5
BP 0.267 0.2217 20.044 0.224 0.0018 0.152–0.295 50.232 0.010 0.196–0.267 2
BB 0.267 0.1366 20.131 0.136 20.0005 0.107–0.165 20.133 20.003 0.117–0.150 2
BZ 0.267 0.2830 0.014 0.281 20.0016 0.251–0.312 50.271 20.012 0.252–0.290 5
LN 0.267 0.3034 0.036 0.303 20.0005 0.250–0.356 50.292 20.011 0.266–0.318 (5)
HO 0.267 0.1596 20.107 0.160 0.0008 0.111–0.210 20.167 0.008 0.138–0.197 2
LO 0.267 0.2409 20.023 0.244 0.0033 0.175–0.313 50.266 0.025 0.224–0.307 5
HM 0.267 0.2838 0.017 0.284 0.0002 0.222–0.346 50.275 20.009 0.237–0.313 5
LC 0.267 0.3252 0.055 0.322 20.0033 0.268–0.375 (+) 0.317 20.008 0.276–0.359 +
LP 0.267 0.2602 20.009 0.258 20.0024 0.221–0.295 50.255 20.005 0.227–0.284 5
HD 0.267 0.3957 0.122 0.390 20.0061 0.293–0.486 +0.377 20.019 0.304–0.450 +
LD 0.267 0.2657 0.001 0.268 0.0023 0.223–0.313 50.263 20.003 0.230–0.297 5
somewhat different from that of the marsupials previously
studied. Here we interpret selected aspects of qualitative
change and allometry in the comparative context of marsupials
so far studied.
The early development of the paracanine fossa in C.
philander (Fig. 2) contrasts with the condition observed in
Lutreolina and Didelphis, in which the fossa is absent in
juveniles of comparabale developmental stage (Abdala et al.
2001; Flores et al. 2003). In the australidelphian Dasyurus,
juveniles larger than those of C. philander (,39 mm—Flores
et al. 2006) and in a similar stage of dental eruption do not
show any evidence of a paracanine fossa, whereas it is clearly
present in adults. The paracanine fossa is absent altogether in
the small-sized Dromiciops gliroides. The early development
of the paracanine fossa in C. philander (Fig. 2) is correlated
with large canines already present in young. This is suggestive
of an active use of canines early in the life of individuals,
which perhaps incorporate adult food items into their diet
earlier in life that other marsupials studied (adults of C.
philander are omnivorous with some preference for fruit—
Astu´a de Moraes et al. 2003; Charles-Dominique et al. 1981;
Julien-Laferriere 1999; Julien-Laferriere and Atramentowicz
1990; Leite et al. 1996). This is also correlated with changes in
the temporomandibular joint that progressively limit the
rostrocaudal displacement and the transverse rotational
movement of the mandible, thereby reducing mandibular
movements to the dorsoventral plane (Abdala et al. 2001).
The development of a P1-P2 diastema (Fig. 2) also has been
reported in Didelphis albiventris (Abdala et al. 2001) and L.
crassicaudata, in which the spacing appears comparatively
larger (Flores et al. 2003). Two small interdental spaces
appear in adults of Dromiciops gliroides in both the upper and
lower tooth rows, i.e., a small diastema between c and p1 and
p1 and p2, and also between C and P1 and P1 and P2 (Giannini
et al. 2004). The pattern of dental spacing is different in
Dasyurus albopunctatus given that the interdental space is
between p2 and m1 (p3 is absent in this species), and this
diastema is present in all the ontogenetic stages observed (see
Flores et al. 2006).
The changes in the orientation of the upper postcanine row,
which becomes nearly parallel in adults (Fig. 4), and the
strongly curved postpalatine torus (Fig. 4) reflect a complex
remodeling during postweaning. Such changes were not
detected in the ontogeny of any of the marsupial species
studied to date, likely representing ontogenetic patterns unique
to Caluromyinae, as inferred from palate morphology in other
members of the subfamily (Caluromysiops irrupta and
Glironia venusta; D. A. Flores, pers. obs.).
Results from allometric analyses of the skull development
in the didelphids Didelphis albiventris (Abdala et al. 2001), L.
crassicaudata (Flores et al. 2003), and Caluromys philander
(this contribution), and the australidelphians Dasyurus albo-
punctatus (Flores et al. 2006) and Dromiciops gliroides
(Giannini et al. 2004) allow for a basic comparison of
allometric trends among representatives of different marsupial
lineages (Table 6). Four variables show the same trends in the
5 marsupial species sampled: breadth of palate, breadth of
braincase, height of occipital plate (negatively allometric), and
the height of dentary (positively allometric). These 4 variables
seem to conform to a basic growth plan shared at the level of
marsupials (Flores et al. 2006). The negative allometry of the
breadth of palate detected in all groups implies that the
posterior palate is wide in juveniles. This condition is most
likely related to its function as a platform for the tongue in the
suckling opossum (German and Crompton 1996) and therefore
can be extended to other species of marsupials. Pump suckling
is an essential function during the early life of marsupials and
determines many other structural traits in the skull of neonates
(Clark and Smith 1993; Maier 1993). In turn, neurocranial
components such as braincase dimensions are negativelly
allometric as in most mammals (Emerson and Bramble 1993).
Sensory capsules are in general expected to scale negatively
(Emerson and Bramble 1993). In almost all vertebrates
accelerated differentiation of the central nervous system and
sensory capsules produces embryos and neonates with large
braincases, eyes, and auditory regions relative to trophic
components of the skull (Emerson and Bramble 1993).
However, in marsupials virtually all neurogenesis occurs after
birth and during lactation (Smith 1997). In our studies
inspecting marsupial ontogeny after weaning, and in all the
species sampled, the rate of growth of neurocranial compo-
nents such as breadth of braincase and height of occipital plate
shows pronounced negative allometry.
Some allometric trends are specific to 1 of the marsupial
representatives sampled, but most trends are common to 2 or
more taxa. Caluromys shares specific growth trends with
Didelphis or Lutreolina, but no allometric trend is shared by
the 3 didelphids to the exclusion of australidelphians
(Table 6). Likewise, C. philander shares no allometric trend
with the 2 australidelphians to the exclusion of didelphids
(Table 6).
TABLE 5.—Comparison of results across methods used to estimate
cranial allometry in Caluromys philander. Symbols indicate isometry
(5), positive allometry (+), and negative allometry (2). When in
parentheses, the symbol indicates a marginally nonsignificant
allometric trend. Abbreviations: LS, least-squares method; RMA,
reduced major axis method. Other abbreviations (variable acronyms)
as in Fig. 1. Multivariate trends are based on trimmed values under
jackknife resampling.
Variable LS RMA Multivariate
UP 55 5
BP 25 2
BB 22 2
BZ 55 5
LN ++ (5)
HO 22 2
LO 55 5
HM 55 5
LC 5(+)+
LP 55 5
HD ++ +
LD 55 5
LT 5++
Three variables exhibit the most remarkable differences
between C. philander and the other didelphids (Table 6). First,
the development of the orbit is isometric in Caluromys,asisin
Dromiciops and Dasyurus, and negatively allometric in the
other 2 didelphids (Table 6). Second, the lengths of the upper
and lower postcanine rows are isometric in C. philander and
negatively allometric in the other didelphids (Table 6). In
adult D. albiventris and L. crassicaudata, the lengths of both
postcanine series are nearly the same, but during ontogeny the
emergence of the lower postcanines is usually advanced in 1
element with respect to the upper postcanines (Astu´a de
Moraes and Leiner 2008). This sequence of emergence leads
to allometric differences between upper and lower rows, with
the coefficient of the lower postcanine row being smaller than
that of the upper row. However, the upper and lower rows
exhibit similar allometric coefficients in C. philander
(isometric in all of methods applied), but the lengths of the
lower and upper tooth rows are equally involved in the mutual
adjustment of the postcanine rows during growth.
The space for temporal musculature in adults is provided by
the interaction between the pattern of growth of the braincase
and zygomatic arches. In didelphids the breadth of zygoma is
isometric, whereas the breadth of the braincase is negatively
allometric (Table 6). Therefore, the space for the temporalis
muscle increases principally inward in relative terms (Abdala
et al. 2001). In Dasyurus the space for the temporalis also
increases by lateral expansion (i.e., the positively allometric
zygomatic breadth; Table 6), as observed in large felids as
Puma concolor (Giannini et al. 2009). This extra space for
masticatory musculature is likely associated with carnivorous
habits (Flores et al. 2006).
The comparison of quantitative cranial trends and the
pattern of morphological changes in the ontogeny of C.
philander and the other marsupial taxa considered herein
indicates a series of common developmental trends and some
trends restricted to specific groups. Just as in other mid- and
large-sized marsupials, most of the ontogenetic changes in C.
philander indicate strengthening of the masticatory system and
cervical musculature. However, several morphological char-
acters observed that appear in late ontogenetic stages in the
other marsupials were already present in young specimens of
C. philander, indicating precocial development of such traits
independent of the final adult size. In addition, specific
changes occur in the palate of C. philander, such as the shift of
orientation between the upper postcanine rows and the
development of a strongly curved postpalatine torus, which
are not known in any marsupial studied to date. Caluromys
shares ontogenetic trends with both didelphids and australi-
delphians. The cranial growth patterns obtained from multi-
variate analysis in C. philander show some unexpected trends,
such as the isometry of the orbit and of the upper postcanine
row, which are trends partially shared only with some studied
australidelphian marsupials. The exploration of the allometric
trends in a representative of the caluromyine clade to the
previously studied taxa reveals that no less than 4 ontogenetic
trends could be interpreted as plesiomorphic relative to the
marsupial clade, likely representing part of the basic
developmental plan of Metatheria. Future interpretations of
the postweaning ontogenetic changes in additional neotropical
marsupials phylogenetically distinct, such as Metachirus,
Monodelphis, and some mouse opossums, could reveal
patterns of growth in a phylogenetic context. Finally, the
comparison of the specific patterns detected in neotropical
marsupials with those of additional Australasian clades with
different life history (e.g., Diprotodontia) is essential to
increasing our understanding of the evolution of cranial
postweaning ontogeny in the group.
La ontogenia craneana ha sido estudiada desde una
perspectiva alome´trica cuantitativa en marsupiales dide´lfidos,
microbiote´ridos y dasyu´ ridos. En continuacio´n con trabajos
previos, describimos y comparamos el desarrollo craneal
postdestete en la comadreja lanosa Caluromys philander.
Identificamos 31 cambios morfolo´gicos cualitativos entre
juveniles y adultos, la mayorı
´a relacionados con el aparato
tro´fico. El temprano desarrollo de la fosa paracanina,
relacionado con la presencia de caninos bien desarrollados
TABLE 6.—Comparison of allometric trends in Caluromys
philander (this study), the didelphids Didelphis albiventris (Abdala
et al. 2001) and Lutreolina crassicaudata (Flores et al. 2003), and the
australidelphians Dromiciops gliroides (Giannini et al. 2004) and
Dasyurus albopunctatus (Flores et al. 2006). Symbols indicate
isometry (5), positive allometry (+), and negative allometry (2).
When in parentheses, the symbol indicates a marginally
nonsignificant allometric trend. The trends for Caluromys are a
composite of results from LS, RMA, and multivariate methods. In the
cases of Didelphis albiventris and L. crassicaudata bivariate methods
were used with skull length as the independent variable; therefore,
allometric trend of skull length is unknown (marked ?). The number
of allometric cranial variables in each species is listed in the last row.
nis sample size for each species. Other abbreviations (species
acronyms) as in Fig. 1.
UP 52 2(5)2
BP (2)2222
BB 22 222
BZ 55 55(+)
LN (+)(2)++ 5
HO 2(2)22 2
LO 52 252
HM 55(2)(5)5
LC (+)5+(5)+
LP 5(2)22 2
HD ++ +(+)+
LD 55 +(5)5
PAL 55 552
LT (+)? ?+2
n45 32–43 52–61 43–51 (37) 31
trends 7 7 11 7 11
en juveniles, es una marcada diferencia en la ontogenia de C.
philander en relacio´n a otros marsupiales estudiados. Reali-
zamos un ana´lisis de alometrı
´a bivariado y multivariado sobre
una matriz compuesta por 14 medidas craneales en 45
especimenes. El escalamiento alome´trico mostro´ que la caja
cerebral es relativamente pequen˜a en adultos, mientras que
otros componentes neurocraneales, particularmente la orbita,
crecieron isometricamente. El paladar se torna elongado por la
combinacio´n de la isomet
´a de su largo y la alometrı
negativa de su ancho. El rostro se alarga mientras su altura
permanece proporcionalmente constante. En te´rminos relati-
vos, la fosa temporal se expande interiormente siguiendo el
modelo marsupial, que combina la alometrı
´a negativa de la
caja cerebral y la isometrı
´a del ancho cigoma´tico. La
´bula se hace ma´s robusta. La ontogenia craneana de
C. philander comparte cuatro tendencias alometricas con dos
dide´lfidos (Didelphis albiventris yLutreolina crassicaudata)y
dos australidelfos (Dromiciops gliroides yDasyurus albo-
punctatus) previamente estudiados. Tres de estas tendencias,
ancho del paladar, ancho de la caja craneana y altura de la
placa occipital fueron alometricamente negativas, mientras
que la altura del dentario fue positiva. Estas tendencias
alometricas comunes pueden ser interpretadas como simple-
siomo´rficas en marsupiales, sugiriendo un alto grado de
conservacio´n del desarrollo craneal de Caluromys y otros
We thank Robert S. Voss for permitting access to collection
specimens and Pablo Teta for drawing Fig. 1. D. Flores and N.
Giannini thank CONICET (Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones
´ficas y Te´cnicas, Argentina) for financial support. PAST
(Palaeontological Scientific Trust, Johannesburg, South Africa)
supported a research trip to Argentina for F. Abdala. We thank John
Wible and an anonymous reviewer for comments that improved the
quality of this manuscript.
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Submitted 5 September 2009. Accepted 12 December 2009.
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... Allometry mainly affects developmental processes commonly seen during the ontogenetic period, accounting for a strong presence in the form of a final structure in the adult stage of an individual ( Klingenberg, 1998). This relationship with size remains strong in didelphids and other marsupial groups so that it may be a conservatism factor in skull development ( Flores et al., 2010). In addition, allometry could remain in adults, even taking into account the effect of geographical variation, as recently reported for other widely distributed geographically groups such as capuchin and howler monkeys ( Cáceres et al., 2014;Meloro et al., 2014a). ...
... philander) distributed closer to the Atlantic Ocean has a minor pressure of seasonality ( Morellato and Haddad, 2000), being more related with rainfall (see below). The two species of Caluromys showed an important influence of allometry on shape, confirming the prediction of allometry for cranial structures in the genus ( Flores et al., 2010). Therefore, allometry had the greatest influence on overall phenotypic variation in each individual species, with both following the same direction in their changes within populations. ...
Environmental pressures are key mechanisms in the change of size or shape of an organism. In addition to external factors, the pressure of allometry (size-related shape changes) can also be present itself in the way that shape varies even in adulthood. In this study, we used a geometric morphometric approach to analyse skull size and shape variation in South-American Didelphidae, genus Caluromys, represented by two species, Caluromys philander and C. lanatus, in relation to allometry, geography and climate. We found a significant presence of allometric effects on these species, especially C. lanatus. The strong role of geographical space mainly on size of both species and on shape of C. lanatus suggests that they are spatially structured, supporting neutral processes, such as drift, in its evolution. Size of both species was related to latitudinal variation, the inverse pattern of Bergmann's rule. Temperature and the set of bioclimatic variables influenced both size and shape of species. The shape of C. philander was influenced by bioclimatic variables (e.g. rainfall), while the shape of C. lanatus showed such influence just in the allometry presence. Our results indicate the importance of allometry and environment in the patterns of skull shape variation in the South-American Caluromys, with a concomitant influence of geography. Climatic factors, such as the temperature, have strong influence on cranial changes along populations, with the two species varying similarly in skull size and shape along a climatic gradient. The latitudinal distribution, although mostly parapatric, of these congeneric species in South America should be in part responsible for the similarities in the observed phenotypic variation.
... In an ongoing series of morphometric studies, we investigate the cranial ontogeny of marsupial species that represent major natural groups in order to elucidate the evolution of cranial ontogeny in marsupials (unpublished data and Abdala et al. 2001;Giannini et al. 2004;Flores et al. 2003Flores et al. , 2006Flores et al. , 2010Flores et al. , 2013Flores et al. , 2015Flores et al. , 2018. The datasets contain the ontogenetic trajectories of skull growth from just-weaned specimens to old adults in many representative species (see below), as available in collections worldwide. ...
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Marsupials represent a major mammalian diversification today restricted geographically to the Americas (but chiefly to the Neotropical Region) and Australasia. The group is highly diverse in morphology, ecology, and habits, and this is reflected to a great extent in cranial morphology. Here, we selected the largest specimens available from a post-weaning developmental series of a large-scale ongoing ontogenetic study to generate a linear multivariate morphospace of the skull of living marsupials. This sample comprised 106 species covering most living clades, and we used a basic set of measurements that estimate dimensions of major skull structures. We specified some predictions suited for a diverse but ancient group with an allopatric distribution. The cranial morphospace of living marsupials was low-dimensional, dominated by size/allometric as well as shape trends of robustness versus gracility and elongation versus depth. Phylogenetic structuring was present, especially in relation to diprotodontians, and the ecological imprint of patterns in phylomorphospace was marked. Evolutionary convergence was statistically detectable between selected species clusters combining Neotropical and Australasian species, chiefly among animalivorous forms but also in predominantly phytophagous arboreal possums and woolly opossums. Convergence among Australian large grazers may be influenced or limited by interspecific competition. Evolutionary divergence was remarkable in some groups, but evolutionary rates varied greatly across divergent forms. Some space voids may be due to extinction; fossil forms are expected to fill in these voids, expand the realized morphospace, and perhaps increase intra- and intercontinental convergence.
... The rostrum is long and the sagittal crest is prominent. Caluromys shows a rounded palate, where a shift in orientation occurs between the upper post-canine rows and the development of a strongly curved post-palatine torus, which are not known for any marsupial so far (Flores et al. 2010). Their feet are plantigrade, and all species have an opposable and clawless thumb, being probably inherited from arboreal ancestors. ...
Marsupials are a group of mammals characterized by their peculiar reproductive strategy, with a short gestation period and a long period of postpartum development and lactation, which could happen inside a marsupium pouch. They are commonly divided in two groups, American and Australian marsupials. The first represents the generalized opossum-like forms, weighing from 30 g to 5.9 kg, terrestrial, arboreal, scansorial and the only truly water-adapted opossum. Most of them are small and pouchless species with similar skull/skeleton and dental formula, usually appropriate to an omnivorous diet. Australian marsupials, however, are more diverse in size and shape, including kangaroos, koalas, sugar gliders, marsupial rats, and mole, weighing from 10 g in the honey-opossum to 90 kg as the red kangaroo. Their skull and skeleton can be significantly different from each other. Most of them present pouches, which could be well or poorly developed, with posterior or anterior openings. All female marsupials possesses two lateral vaginae for reproduction, and one medial pseudovaginal canal develops only for the neonate birth, while most male marsupials have a bifid penile gland, positioned posteriorly to their scrotum. The marsupial young are born in a very altricial state, blind, hairless and with very low mobility, depending on the maternal parental care to survive.
... The space for the temporal muscle is shaped between the zygoma and the braincase, so the more Bpositive^the ZB, the more space is generated to develop a large temporal muscle and the potential for a stronger bite increases. In turn, the palate length was more frequently isometric whereas the palate width was typically Bnegative,^meaning that the palate started as a short, posteriorly wide platform that supported the tongue during permanent, pump suckling, an essential function during the early life of marsupials (Clark and Smith 1993;Maier 1993), and eventually developed the more elongated palate of marsupials (see Abdala et al. 2001;Flores et al. 2003Flores et al. , 2010Flores et al. , 2015. The early development and integration of the palate were also related with the breathing capacity of young during the fixation period (e.g., Shirai and Marroig 2010;Goswami et al. 2012). ...
Quantification of mammalian skull development has received much attention in the recent literature. Previous results in different lineages have shown an effect of historical legacy on patterns of skull growth. In marsupials, the skull of adults exhibits high variation across species, principally along a size axis. The development keys of the marsupial skull are fundamental to understanding the evolution of skull function in this clade. Its generally well-resolved phylogeny makes the group ideal for studying macroevolution of skull ontogeny. Here, we tested the hypothesis that ontogenetic similarity is correlated with phylogeny in New World marsupials, so that developmental patterns are expected to be conserved from ancestral opossums. We concatenated our previously published ontogenetic cranial data from several opossum species with new ontogenetic sequences and constructed an allometric space on the basis of a set of comparable cranial linear measurements. In this ontogenetic space, we determined the degree of correspondence of developmental patterns and the phylogeny of the group. In addition, we mapped ontogenetic trajectories onto the opossum phylogeny, treating the trajectories as composite, continuously varying characters. Didelphids differed widely in the magnitude of skull allometry across species. Splanchnocranial components exhibited all possible patterns of inter-specific variation, whereas mandibular variables were predominantly allometrically “positive” and neurocranial components were predominantly allometrically “negative.” The distribution of species in allometric space reflected the compounded effect of phylogeny and size variation characteristic of didelphids. The terminal morphology of related species differed in shape, so their ontogenetic trajectories deviated with respect to that of reconstructed common ancestors in varying degree. Phylogeny was the main factor structuring the allometric space of New World marsupials. Didelphids inherited an ancestral constellation of allometry coefficients without change and retained much of it throughout their lineage history. Conserved allometric values on the nodes splitting placental outgroups and marsupials suggest a developmental basis common to all therians.
... Dental enamel microwear of D. vorax favours this last explanation: analysed specimens show lower frequencies of pits than in other osteophages 42 and are spread across the microwear space defined by extant mammals, from durophagous carnivores and omnivores, like the river otter L. canadensis and crab-eating raccoon P. cancrivorus, to small vertebrate and insect predators, like the ring-tailed cat B. astutus, and taxa that mainly feed on plants, like the kinkajou Potos flavus and muskrat O. zibethicus ( Supplementary Fig. 14 and Supplementary Tables 12-15). These results perhaps also reflect that as the skull shape of D. vorax varied with ontogeny, as in extant marsupials 43 , so too did skull function and diet. Together, our data indicate that D. vorax was a powerful predator-scavenger in Late Cretaceous ecosystems with considerable faculties for cracking bone, invertebrate shell and/or turtle shell, but lacked some modifications of larger, more advanced osteophages, and D. vorax likely supplemented its diet of small vertebrates, carrion and/or molluscs with insects and plant matter. ...
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Marsupial mammal relatives (stem metatherians) from the Mesozoic Era (252–66 million years ago) are mostly known from isolated teeth and fragmentary jaws. Here we report on the first near-complete skull remains of a North American Late Cretaceous metatherian, the stagodontid Didelphodon vorax. Our phylogenetic analysis indicates that marsupials or their closest relatives evolved in North America, as part of a Late Cretaceous diversification of metatherians, and later dispersed to South America. In addition to being the largest known Mesozoic therian mammal (node-based clade of eutherians and metatherians), Didelphodon vorax has a high estimated bite force and other craniomandibular and dental features that suggest it is the earliest known therian to invade a durophagous predator–scavenger niche. Our results broaden the scope of the ecomorphological diversification of Mesozoic mammals to include therian lineages that, in this case, were linked to the origin and evolution of marsupials.
... However, this measurement is not always isometric with respect to the skull as a whole (e.g. Flores et al. 2010, Tarnawski et al. 2014a; hence, we employed a different linear variable as the geometric mean (Mosimann 1970, Meachen-Samuels and Van Valkenburgh 2009, Tarnawski et al. 2014a, which is more suitable as an independent term. The geometric mean is a size variable derived from the N th root of the product of N measurements, being a good predictor of individual size and skull measurements. ...
The short-nosed Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus) is the fifth largest member of Delphinidae, but is one of the least studied dolphin species. We studied the postnatal ontogeny and sexual dimorphism of the skull of Risso’s dolphin by applying linear bivariate and multivariate analyses of allometry and discussing our findings in a comparative and functional framework. Comparing a representative of the Globicephalinae subfamily (a typically short-nosed group) with previously studied cetaceans belonging to different families is important for evaluating variations in the growth of splanchnocranium and neurocranium in cetaceans. Results of bivariate and multivariate approaches were mostly similar. The trophic apparatus showed positive allometry or isometry, whereas negative allometry was observed in neurochranial components and in width of external nares. We detected sexual dimorphism in the growth pattern of cranial variables related to trophic functions, suggesting slight differences in the mechanics of the trophic apparatus. Our results indicate a very low degree of sexual dimorphism in skull growth compared with other dolphins with most dimorphic growth rates favoring females; this result can be related to the earlier acquisition of an optimal performance in females, which is important for reproductive requirements. The growth of the splanchnocranium, and especially of those characters associated with the trophic function, exhibits a pattern of higher growth rate than neurochranial components, regardless of the short face of G. griseus.
... The orbital length (OL) is negatively allometric and follows the expected trend for tetrapods (see Emerson and Bramble, 1993). Interestingly, the orbital diameter (OD) in Galesaurus shows isometry (Table 3), which is unlike the general trend for tetrapods but is similar to the trend of orbital length found for the three marsupials Dromiciops gliroides (Giannini et al., 2004), Caluromys philander (Flores et al., 2010), and Echymipera kalubu (Flores et al., 2013). However, a common connection between the relatively faster growing orbits of these three marsupial taxa and their lifestyle (behaviour, food habits, and habitat) could not be found (also see Flores et al., 2013). ...
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Ontogenetic changes in the skull and mandible of thirty-one specimens of Galesaurus planiceps, a basal non-mammaliaform cynodont from the Early Triassic of South Africa, are documented. The qualitative survey indicated eight changes in the craniomandibular apparatus occurred during growth, dividing the sample into three ontogenetic stages: juvenile, subadult, and adult. Changes in the temporal region, zygomatic arch, occiput, and mandible occurred during the transition from the subadult to adult stage at a basal skull length of 90 mm. At least four morphological and allometric differences divided the adult specimens into two morphs, indicating the presence of sexual dimorphism in Galesaurus. Differences include extensive lateral flaring of the zygomatic arches in the 'male' morph resulting in a more anterior orientation of the orbits, and a narrower snout in the 'female'. This is the first record of sexual dimorphism in a basal cynodont, and the first time it is quantitatively documented in a non-mammaliaform cynodont. An ontogenetic comparison between Galesaurus and the more derived basal cynodont Thrinaxodon revealed differences in the timing and extent of sagittal crest development. In Galesaurus, the posterior sagittal crest, located behind the parietal foramen, developed relatively later in ontogeny, and the anterior sagittal crest rarely formed suggesting the anterior fibres of the temporalis were less developed than in Thrinaxodon. In contrast, craniomandibular features related to the masseters became more developed during the ontogeny of Galesaurus. The development of the adductor musculature appears to be one of the main factors influencing skull growth in these basal non-mammaliaform cynodonts. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
... This has been seen by Hogue and ZiaShakeri (2010) in molar crests of marsupials, for example. Caluromys and Glironia (both belonging to Caluromyinae) are the most basal taxa in Didelphidae (Flores et al. 2010, Jansa et al. 2014) and retain a particular first molar shape (mostly with an expanded, elongated talonid area), well differentiated from the pattern seen in more advanced didelphids. This first molar pattern is lost with the subsequent evolution of didelphid lineages, where a major development of the trigonid took place, irrespective of habitat colonization. ...
Tribosphenic molars are considered great innovations in mammals and are related to several structures and variables that can explain adaptation. The aim of this study was to investigate the importance of body size and habitat relation, using a phylogenetic approach, in the first lower molar shape in didelphid marsupials. Geometric morphometric analyses of the lower molar’s shape were performed on 261 specimens, 130 females and 131 males, covering 14 genera and 37 species of the Didelphidae family. The molar conformation showed a larger talonid in relation to the trigonid in more arboreal genera, and narrower and longer molars in genera with a larger body size. Phylogeny was the variable with the highest explanation for both females and males (16.17% and 9.02%, respectively). The body size was significant in males, presenting an important influence on molar shape, while the body size in females was not significant when phylogenetic relationship was controlled for. In both sexes, habitat presents a strong effect of phylogeny, with no direct effect on molar shape. Didelphid molar shape is another result of its phylogenetic history and does not respond very much to environmental pressures. Male body size influences molar shape in didelphids, even in the presence of a strong phylogenetic signal.
... Comparing the patterns of change in ontogeny and postnatal growth among species serves to understand how morphological disparity has arisen in evolution (Wilson and Werneburg 2014). Skulls are excellent markers of such changes (e.g., Flores et al. 2010; Hautier et al. 2012; Herrel et al. 2012; Hughes et al. 1978), given their complexity, and also teeth, given their common occurrence in the fossil record (e.g., Deschamps et al. 2007; Deschamps et al. 2013; Vucetich et al. 2005; Vucetich et al. 2014; Vucetich et al. 2015a). Caviomorph rodents offer an excellent case study, as the radiation of these hystricognath rodents includes much diversity in form and species (Alvarez et al. 2015; Vassallo and Antenucci, 2015; Weisbecker and Schmid 2007). ...
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We report on intraspecific and interspecific morphological variation in the cranium, mandible and teeth along the ontogenetic trajectories of the two species of the largest living rodent, the capybara. A three dimensional geometric morphometrics approach was used to compare 171 H. hydrochaeris and 44 H. isthmius specimens ranging from newborn to adult. The specimens were assigned to seven different age classes according to cranial suture closure. The species can be differentiated in the morphospace occupation. They differ in the angle between the braincase and rostrum − H. hydrochaeris displays a straight transition whereas the snout of H. isthmius is inclined ventrally. The males in both species are bigger than the females, but no shape differences were detected. The youngest two age classes (up to 0.5 months and 0.5 −10 months; before reaching sexual maturity) can be morphologically differentiated from the older age classes. Shape changes during growth are similar in both species: with increasing age, the round neurocranium flattens and the proportionally short snout elongates. Moreover, both species follow similar ontogenetic trajectories. H. hydrochaeris and H. isthmius can be differentiated by size and shape, where the shape differences may indicate differences in diet and habitat. This study illustrates the relevance of an ontogenetic perspective to characterize species and examine the bases of disparity in adults. Furthermore, variation recorded in dental features serves to evaluate taxonomic and evolutionary aspects in fossil capybaras.
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The current literature on marsupial phylogenetics includes numerous studies based on analyses of morphological data with limited sampling of Recent and fossil taxa, and many studies based on analyses of molecular data with dense sampling of Recent taxa, but few studies have combined both data types. Another dichotomy in the marsupial phylogenetic literature is between studies focused on New World taxa and those focused on Sahulian taxa. To date, there has been no attempt to assess the phylogenetic relationships of the global marsupial fauna based on combined analyses of morphology and molecular sequences for a dense sampling of Recent and fossil taxa. For this report, we compiled morphological and molecular data from an unprecedented number of Recent and fossil marsupials. Our morphological data consist of 180 craniodental characters that we scored for 97 terminals representing every currently recognized Recent genus, 42 additional ingroup (crown-clade marsupial) terminals represented by well-preserved fossils, and 5 outgroups (nonmarsupial metatherians). Our molecular data comprise 24.5 kb of DNA sequences from whole-mitochondrial genomes and six nuclear loci (APOB, BRCA1, GHR, RAG1, RBP3 and VWF) for 97 marsupial terminals (the same Recent taxa scored for craniodental morphology) and several placental and monotreme outgroups. The results of separate and combined analyses of these data using a wide range of phylogenetic methods support many currently accepted hypotheses of ingroup (marsupial) relationships, but they also underscore the difficulty of placing fossils with key missing data (e.g., Evolestes), and the unique difficulty of placing others that exhibit mosaics of plesiomorphic and autapomorphic traits (e.g., Yalkaparidon). Unique contributions of our study are (1) critical discussions and illustrations of marsupial craniodental morphology including features never previously coded for phylogenetic analysis; (2) critical assessments of relative support for many suprageneric clades; (3) estimates of divergence times derived from tip-and-node dating based on uniquely taxon-dense analyses; and (4) a revised, higher-order classification of marsupials accompanied by lists of supporting craniodental synapomorphies. Far from the last word on these topics, this report lays the foundation for future research that may be enabled by the discovery of new fossil taxa, better-preserved material of previously described taxa, novel morphological characters (e.g., from the postcranium), and improved methods of phylogenetic analysis.
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A comprehensive, but simple-to-use software package for executing a range of standard numerical analysis and operations used in quantitative paleontology has been developed. The program, called PAST (PAleontological STatistics), runs on standard Windows computers and is available free of charge. PAST integrates spreadsheettype data entry with univariate and multivariate statistics, curve fitting, time-series analysis, data plotting, and simple phylogenetic analysis. Many of the functions are specific to paleontology and ecology, and these functions are not found in standard, more extensive, statistical packages. PAST also includes fourteen case studies (data files and exercises) illustrating use of the program for paleontological problems, making it a complete educational package for courses in quantitative methods.
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Metatherians experience the greatest developmental changes during extrauterine life. Following previous studies onDidelphis albiventris Lund, 1840, we examined the postweaning cranial allometry of size of the Neotropical marsupialLutreolina crassicaudata (Desmerest, 1804). Our aim was to compare growth patterns of both species to identify traits particular to each species and traits common to both species. This may contribute toward identifying a common developmental plan for didelphids. We measured 15 cranial variables in 32–43 specimens from just-weaned young to old adult. Total length of the skull was the estimator of overall size in least squares and reduced major axis regressions. The skull ofLutreolina crassicaudata grows at a rate slower than the overall change in size in its neurocranial components, palate, and postcanine rows, and it grows relatively faster in the rest of the splanchnocranium. This pattern closely resembles that ofDidelphis albiventris, from which it differs mainly in the allometry of the muzzle. In both species, allometry explains most postweaning changes of the trophic apparatus on functional grounds, in relation to interspecific differences in diet. We hypothesize that most local allometric departures from a generalized didelphid plan would relate to main dietary trends.
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Postweaning development of the skull of Didelphis albiventris was studied in juveniles (3.5-8 months), subadults (7.5-9.5 months), and adults (>9.5 months). Analysis of allometry of 15 skull measurements was performed on a continuous growth series of 52-61 specimens to evaluate quantitative ontogenetic changes. Complex modifications occurred in cranial bones or regions such as the palate, processes for origin and attachment of jaw muscles, mandibular joint, frontal region, braincase, occipital bones, and petrosal. All measurements except zygomatic breadth were either positively or negatively allometric. Neurocranial components grew with strongly negative (<1) coefficients of allometry. Adult proportions of the masticatory apparatus arose from the counteraction of developmental trends; for example, the space for large temporal muscles was provided by isometric growth of the zygomatic breadth versus slower growth of the braincase. We interpret most of the postweaning developments as a function of the shift from milk suckling to active mastication.
In order to test the results of a previous study of didelphid marsupial phylogeny based on IRBP nuclear gene sequences (Jansa and Voss, 2000. Phylogenetic studies on didelphid marsupials I. Introduction and preliminary results from nuclear IRBP gene sequences. Journal of Mammalian Evolution 7: 43-77), we surveyed external, cranial, dental, and karyotypic characters among a more densely taxon-sampled didelphine ingroup. Separate maximum-parsimony analyses of these nonmolecular data and of a new (taxon-dense) IRBP matrix yielded superficially dissimilar strict-consensus topologies. However, no didelphine clade that was even moderately well supported by either separate analysis was contradicted by any equivalently well-supported clade in the other. Instead, all examples of taxonomic incongruence involved weak nodal support from one or both datasets. A maximum-likelihood analysis of the IRBP data produced a consensus topology that was completely congruent with, although slightly more resolved than, the maximum-parsimony consensus. A combined (simultaneous) maximum-parsimony analysis of both datasets (nonmolecular + IRBP) produced a consensus topology that closely resembled the results of analyzing IRBP separately. Most of the didelphine relationships previously reported by Jansa and Voss (op. cit.) are supported by these analytic exercises, with some notable exceptions. The taxon currently known as Marmosa canescens is conspicuously divergent from congeneric species and variously clusters with three different groups ("other Marmosa" + Micoureus, Monodelphis, or higher didelphines [= clade H of Jansa and Voss, op. cit.]) in several parsimony-equivalent resolutions of a fourfold basal polytomy in the IRBP and combined-data consensus topologies. Even without canescens, however, the genus Marmosa is not demonstrably monophyletic. The nomenclatural consequences of these results are discussed, and a new genus is described for "Marmosa" canescens. Future analyses should test the monophyly of other speciose didelphine genera, but new sources of character data will be needed to offset the loss of resolution and decreased nodal support that are often caused by denser taxon sampling.
This solitary, arboreal, nocturnal marsupial is predominantly frugivorous, a few arthropods supplementing a basically vegetarian diet. Its home range averages 0.75 ha and broadly overlaps those of neighbouring individuals. Some individuals are very sedentary. Significant variations in the duration of the nocturnal activity periods were correlated with the availability of food supply and the reproductive status of the females. Lactating mothers with pouch-young older than 5 wk (Group 1) needed twice as much food as non-lactating females, or females with pouch-young less than 5 wk old (Group 2). From November-May, when food supply was abundant, Group 1 females were active on average during 9 hr every night, as opposed to 5 hr per night in Group 2 females. From June-October, when food resources were scarcer, females of both groups spent more than 9 hr per night foraging for food. Two breeding periods were noted during the year of study. The first took place from October-December 1978. The food situation being very favourable at that time, 95% of the young born survived until weaning. A 2nd generation was produced between April-June 1979, when food was becoming scarcer. The reproductive success was consequently much reduced, >80% of the young dying in the pouch, and mothers losing weight. A third batch of young were born in September 1979. As with other didelphids, Caluromys philander is a polyoestrous marsupial. However, scarcity of food can lead to 'pouch abortions' and to a temporary inhibition of reproduction.-from English summary
Caluromys philander, Didelphis marsupialis and Philander opossum were studied in secondary and mature forest. Both forests exhibited a period of low fruit availability which was longer and more acute in the mature forest. Nevertheless, survival rate of pouch young was higher for C. philander and P. opossum in the mature forest. It was correlated with high nectar availability during the season of fruit scarcity, and with lower population density compared to the secondary forest site. D. marsupialis had a more seasonal breeding pattern, with low mortality of pouch young on both sites, and thus appeared less directly dependent on environmental conditions. Influence of parturition dates, age and body weight of the female upon litter size and pouch young survival is discussed. -from Authors
Growth of pouch young from birth to first exit from pouch was recorded in female bare-tailed woolly opossums, Caluromys philander, a didelphid marsupial from French Guiana. An age-predicting curve was assessed for its use in determining the age of pouch young from length of body in free-living individuals. Increase in body mass of sucklings during pouch life indicates the level of maternal investment during lactation; reproductive effort appears to be low during the first 40 days of pouch life, then increasing to a higher rate in the last 40 days. Maternal investment during lactation is discussed in light of variations in energetic cost during lactation.
Five species of Didelphid marsupials were trapped live, marked, and released in a secondary forest in French Guiana during a 26-mo field study. Data on body weight, body length, dental stage, and reproductive state of females were collected. A total of 851 individuals, including 372 pouch-young, were monitored in 2273 captures. This abundance of data we made led us to a comparative analysis of the population dynamics of three species: Didelphis marsupialis, Philander opossum, and Caluromys philander, which represented 94 percent of the whole captures. Some data on the two other species, Marmosa murina and M. cinerea, were added for comparison. These sympatric Didelphids are nocturnal, with a basically frugivorous and insectivorous diet. The three main species have high densities, high reproductive rates, short life-spans, and rapid population turnover. There are some differences in these parameters, mainly between the arboreal species, C. philander, and both terrestrial species, D. marsupialis and P. opossum. Although all have few social interactions and show a lack of territoriality, C. philander appear to have a longer life-span, a lower reproductive rate and a more sedentary population. M. cinerea were very rare in this area, whereas M. murina show large density variation.