As body size increases, so do the biomechanical challenges of terrestrial locomotion. In the appendicular skeleton, increasing size is met with allometry of limb posture and structure, but much less is known about adaptations of the axial skeleton. It has been hypothesized that stabilization of the lumbar region against sagittal bending may be a response to increasing size in running mammals. However, empirical data on lumbar allometry in running mammals are scarce. This study presents quantitative data on allometry of the penultimate lumbar vertebra in two mammal families: Bovidae and Felidae. One hundred and twenty 3D landmarks were collected on the penultimate lumbar vertebra of 34 bovid (N = 123) and 23 felid (N = 93) species. Multivariate phylogenetically informed regressions were computed, and the shape variation associated with increasing size calculated. The influence of locomotor and habitat variables on size‐corrected lumbar shape was tested using phylogenetic multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVAs). Results demonstrate that the scaling patterns in both groups are consistent with the hypothesis of allometric stabilization of the lumbar region, and suggest convergent evolution of allometric responses in distantly related lineages of mammals. However, there was a relatively smaller effect of size in felids than bovids, even when size range disparities were accounted for, suggesting a trade‐off between size and running behaviour. Despite the strong influence of size and phylogeny on lumbar shape, there was no correlation with either habitat or diet within families, though certain specialized taxa (i.e., cheetah) did have divergent morphology.
Biological Journal of the Linnean Society – Oxford University Press
Published: Nov 1, 2015
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