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The Holes of Moles: Osteological Correlates of the Trigeminal Nerve in Talpidae

Abstract

Talpidae consists of small insectivorous mammals exhibiting a range of environmental preferences. As all its members rely on a highly developed somatosensation system, they are an ideal study-group for investigating osteological correlates of the trigeminal nerve. We quantitatively studied cranial anatomy in 22 species of desman, shrew-mole, and true mole using microscopy and micro-CT imaging to investigate whether the infraorbital foramina within Talpidae is enlarged in semiaquatic forms and more broadly associated with habitat preference. We also investigated whether associated foramina were covariant. In order to account for a phylogenetic basis for any correlations, we reconstructed the best taxonomically sampled phylogeny for talpids in the literature to date, based on cytochrome b. Relationships among genera and species are broadly congruent with previous analyses; however, we report new placements for Neurotrichus gibbsii and Mogera tokudae. Although no correlation was found between habitat and the caliber of the V3 associated mandibular canal and foramen ovale, our results indicate that semiaquatic forms show larger infraorbital foramina in comparison to terrestrial species, and that the caliber of the sphenorbital fissure can also serve as a proxy for habitat preference. This work, therefore, supports the use of certain osteological features to infer habitat preferences in fossil species and indicates this can be achieved even when studying ecologically diverse, closely related species within the same family.

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Acknowledgments

NC and RST thank Drs. Robert Asher, Adrian Friday, Lionel Hautier, and Stephanie Pierce for discussions during the development of this project and comments on the manuscript. Tom White and Russell Stebbings kindly provided USB microscopes for data collection. Alan Heaver (University of Cambridge) and Drs. Nikolay Karjilov and André Hilger (Helmholtz-Zentrum, Berlin) are thanked for their assistance during micro-CT scanning. Jacques Cuisin and Dr. Violaine Nicolas are thanked for the loan of specimens from the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle (Paris), Matthew Lowe from the University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge, and Nora Lange and Dr. Oliver Hampe from the Museum für Naturkunde (Berlin). Dr. Peter Giere is thanked for granting access to the histological collection at the Museum für Naturkunde (Berlin). Access to the mammal stores of the British Museum of Natural History was facilitated by Louise Tomsett. Thanks go to Drs. Roger Benson and Stephen Montgomery for assistance calculating the influence of phylogenetic inertia. NC further thanks Anja Stadeler, Aodhan Butler, and Joe Flack for accommodation while visiting institutions. The manuscript was improved thanks to the helpful comments of two anonymous reviewers and Dr. John Wible. NC and RST are funded by the BBSRC. NC received support from the SYNTHESYS Project (http://www.synthesys.info) which is financed by European Community Research Infrastructure Action under the FP7 “Capacities” Program (DE-TAF-1108).

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Crumpton, N., Thompson, R.S. The Holes of Moles: Osteological Correlates of the Trigeminal Nerve in Talpidae. J Mammal Evol 20, 213–225 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10914-012-9213-2

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Keywords

  • Ecological niche partitioning
  • Micro-CT
  • Morphology
  • Osteology
  • Talpidae
  • Trigeminal nerve