Evolutionary Biology

, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 71–87

Building Developmental Integration into Functional Systems: Function-Induced Integration of Mandibular Shape

  • Miriam Leah Zelditch
  • Aaron R. Wood
  • Donald L. Swiderski
Research Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11692-008-9034-7

Cite this article as:
Zelditch, M.L., Wood, A.R. & Swiderski, D.L. Evol Biol (2009) 36: 71. doi:10.1007/s11692-008-9034-7


The mammalian mandible is a developmentally modular but functionally integrated system. Whether morphological integration can evolve to match the optimal pattern of functional integration may depend on the developmental origin of integration, specifically, on the role that direct epigenetic interactions play in shaping integration. These interactions are hypothesized to integrate modules and also to be highly conservative, potentially constraining the evolution of integration. Using the fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) mandible as a model system, we test five a priori developmental hypotheses that predict mandibular integration and we also explore for correlations between shapes of mandibular regions not anticipated by any of the developmental models. To determine whether direct epigenetic interactions are highly conserved in rodents, we examine the correlation structure of fluctuating asymmetry, and compare integration patterns between fox squirrels and prairie deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus bairdii). In fox squirrels, we find a correlation structure unanticipated by all a priori developmental models: adjacent parts along the proximodistal jaw axis are correlated whereas more distant ones are not. The most notable exception is that the shape of the anterior incisor alveolus is correlated with the shape of the ramus (FA component) or coronoid (symmetric component). Those exceptions differ between species; in prairie deer mice, the molar alveolus is connected to more parts, and the incisor alveolus to fewer, than in fox squirrels. The structure of integration suggests that the mandible cannot be decomposed into parts but rather is a single connected unit, a result consistent with its functional integration. That match between functional and developmental integration may arise, at least in part, from function-induced growth, building developmental integration into the functional system and enabling direct epigenetic interactions to evolve when function does.


Morphological integrationModularityMandible

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Miriam Leah Zelditch
    • 1
  • Aaron R. Wood
    • 1
  • Donald L. Swiderski
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Museum of PaleontologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Kresge Hearing Research InstituteUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Museum of ZoologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA