, Volume 124, Issue 4, pp 189-203
Date: 15 Oct 2005

Post-natal ontogeny of the mandible and ventral cranium in Marmota species (Rodentia, Sciuridae): allometry and phylogeny

Abstract

Post-natal ontogenetic variation of the marmot mandible and ventral cranium is investigated in two species of the subgenus Petromarmota (M. caligata, M. flaviventris) and four species of the subgenus Marmota (M. caudata, M. himalayana, M. marmota, M. monax). Relationships between size and shape are analysed using geometric morphometric techniques. Sexual dimorphism is negligible, allometry explains the main changes in shape during growth, and males and females manifest similar allometric trajectories. Anatomical regions affected by size-related shape variation are similar in different species, but allometric trajectories are divergent. The largest modifications of the mandible and ventral cranium occur in regions directly involved in the mechanics of mastication. Relative to other anatomical regions, the size of areas of muscle insertion increases, while the size of sense organs, nerves and teeth generally decreases. Epigenetic factors, developmental constraints and size variation were found to be the major contributors in producing the observed allometric patterns. A phylogenetic signal was not evident in the comparison of allometric trajectories, but traits that allow discrimination of the Palaearctic marmots from the Nearctic species of Petromarmota are present early in development and are conserved during post-natal ontogeny.