A macroevolutionary common-garden experiment reveals differentially evolvable bone organization levels in slow arboreal mammals

Commun Biol. 2023 Sep 28;6(1):995. doi: 10.1038/s42003-023-05371-3.


Eco-morphological convergence, i.e., similar phenotypes evolved in ecologically convergent taxa, naturally reproduces a common-garden experiment since it allows researchers to keep ecological factors constant, studying intrinsic evolutionary drivers. The latter may result in differential evolvability that, among individual anatomical parts, causes mosaic evolution. Reconstructing the evolutionary morphology of the humerus and femur of slow arboreal mammals, we addressed mosaicism at different bone anatomical spatial scales. We compared convergence strength, using it as indicator of evolvability, between bone external shape and inner structure, with the former expected to be less evolvable and less involved in convergent evolution, due to anatomical constraints. We identify several convergent inner structural traits, while external shape only loosely follows this trend, and we find confirmation for our assumption in measures of convergence magnitude. We suggest that future macroevolutionary reconstructions based on bone morphology should include structural traits to better detect ecological effects on vertebrate diversification.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Mammals / genetics
  • Phenotype
  • Trees*