The effects of phylogeny, body size, and locomotor behavior on the three-dimensional shape of the pelvis in extant carnivorans

PeerJ. 2020 Feb 20;8:e8574. doi: 10.7717/peerj.8574. eCollection 2020.


The mammalian pelvis is thought to exhibit adaptations to the functional demands of locomotor behaviors. Previous work in primates has identified form-function relationships between pelvic shape and locomotor behavior; few studies have documented such relationships in carnivorans, instead focusing on long bones. Most work on the functional morphology of the carnivoran pelvis, in particular, has used univariate measures, with only a few previous studies incorporating a three-dimensional (3D) analysis. Here we test the hypothesis that carnivoran taxa that are characterized by different locomotor modes also differ in 3D shape of the os coxae. Using 3D geometric morphometrics and phylogenetic comparative methods, we evaluate the phylogenetic, functional, and size-related effects on 3D pelvis shape in a sample of 33 species of carnivorans. Using surface models derived from laser scans, we collected a suite of landmarks (N = 24) and curve semilandmarks (N = 147). Principal component analysis on Procrustes coordinates demonstrates patterns of shape change in the ischiopubis and ilium likely related to allometry. Phylogenetic generalized least squares analysis on principal component scores demonstrates that phylogeny and body size have greater effects on pelvic shape than locomotor function. Our results corroborate recent research finding little evidence of locomotor specialization in the pelvis of carnivorans. More research on pelvic morphological integration and evolvability is necessary to understand the factors driving pelvic evolution in carnivorans.

Keywords: 3D geometric morphometrics; Anatomy; Functional morphology; Pelvis; Phylogenetic comparative methods; Scaling.

Grant support

This work was supported by the University of Southern California. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.