Comparative myology of the forelimb of squirrels (Sciuridae)

J Morphol. 1997 Nov;234(2):155-82. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-4687(199711)234:2<155::AID-JMOR4>3.0.CO;2-B.


The musculature of the shoulder, arm, and forearm was studied in 19 genera of squirrels, representing the Pteromyinae (flying squirrels) and all 7 tribes of the Sciurinae (tree and ground squirrels). The objective was to locate derived anatomical features of functional or phylogenetic significance and to determine how much morphological variation underlies the diverse locomotor behavior of squirrels, which includes terrestrial and arboreal bounding, climbing, digging, and gliding. The fossil evidence suggests that arboreality is primitive for squirrels, and in fact tree squirrels appear to represent the primitive sciurid morphology. Ground squirrels are less uniform and exhibit a few derived features, including a clavobrachialis muscle not seen in other squirrels. Pygmy tree squirrels, which have evolved independently in three tribes, exhibit convergence of forelimb anatomy, including the loss or reduction of several muscles in the shoulder and forearm. The forelimb anatomy of flying squirrels is the most derived and differs from that of tree squirrels in details of shoulder, arm, and forearm musculature. Some of these muscular differences among squirrels have phylogenetic significance, being shared by closely related genera, but none has significance above the tribal level. Many of the differences suggest a variety of changes in function that are amenable to further study.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Back / anatomy & histology
  • Forelimb / anatomy & histology*
  • Humerus / anatomy & histology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / anatomy & histology*
  • Neck Muscles / anatomy & histology
  • Radius / anatomy & histology
  • Scapula / anatomy & histology
  • Sciuridae / anatomy & histology*
  • Shoulder / anatomy & histology
  • Species Specificity
  • Spine / anatomy & histology
  • Ulna / anatomy & histology