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Quantitative inferences on the locomotor behaviour of extinct species applied to Simocyon batalleri (Ailuridae, Late Miocene, Spain)

Abstract

Inferences of function and ecology in extinct taxa have long been a subject of interest because it is fundamental to understand the evolutionary history of species. In this study, we use a quantitative approach to investigate the locomotor behaviour of Simocyon batalleri, a key taxon related to the ailurid family. To do so, we use 3D surface geometric morphometric approaches on the three long bones of the forelimb of an extant reference sample. Next, we test the locomotor strategy of S. batalleri using a leave-one-out cross-validated linear discriminant analysis. Our results show that S. batalleri is included in the morphospace of the living species of musteloids. However, each bone of the forelimb appears to show a different functional signal suggesting that inferring the lifestyle or locomotor behaviour of fossils can be difficult and dependent on the bone investigated. This highlights the importance of studying, where possible, a maximum of skeletal elements to be able to make robust inferences on the lifestyle of extinct species. Finally, our results suggest that S. batalleri may be more arboreal than previously suggested.

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Acknowledgments

We thank P. D. Polly, J. Samuels, R. Asher and an anonymous reviewer for helpful and constructive comments on an earlier version of this paper; we thank María Jesús Siliceo and Hospital Nuestra Señora de América (Madrid, Spain) for CT scanning the bones of S. batalleri. We thank J. Cuisin, G. Véron, J. Villemain and C. Bens for the access to specimens from the collections Mammifères et Oiseaux, MNHN, Paris; L. Costeur, from the Naturhistorisches Museum, Basel, J. Chupasko from the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and S. Peurach from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington, District of Columbia for allowing us to scan the comparative material. We thank the ‘plate-forme de morphométrie’ of the UMS 2700 (CNRS, MNHN) for access to the surface scanner. A-C Fabre thanks the Fondation Fyssen, the doctoral school FdV, the Fondation Bettencourt-Schueller, and A. Murrayn and M. Collins to help her to obtain a UCL IMPACT scholarship for funding. MJS and JM belong to the Research Group UCM-BSCH 910607. We also thank A. Herrel, L. Bascher, F. Goussard, M. Randau, S. Moulin, C. Houssin and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful discussions and comments on this manuscript. The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Anne-Claire Fabre.

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Communicated by: Sven Thatje

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Fabre, AC., Salesa, M.J., Cornette, R. et al. Quantitative inferences on the locomotor behaviour of extinct species applied to Simocyon batalleri (Ailuridae, Late Miocene, Spain). Sci Nat 102, 30 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-015-1280-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-015-1280-9

Keywords

  • Ecomorphology
  • Locomotion
  • 3D geometric morphometrics
  • Palaeobiological inference
  • Forelimb