Skip to main content
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 3
  • Cited by
    This chapter has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Verde Arregoitia, Luis D. Fisher, Diana O. and Schweizer, Manuel 2017. Morphology captures diet and locomotor types in rodents. Royal Society Open Science, Vol. 4, Issue. 1, p. 160957.

    Ginot, Samuel Hautier, Lionel Marivaux, Laurent and Vianey-Liaud, Monique 2016. Ecomorphological analysis of the astragalo-calcaneal complex in rodents and inferences of locomotor behaviours in extinct rodent species. PeerJ, Vol. 4, Issue. , p. e2393.

    Vianey-Liaud, Monique and Marivaux, Laurent 2016. Autopsie d’une radiation adaptative: Phylogénie des Theridomorpha, rongeurs endémiques du Paléogène d’Europe - histoire, dynamique évolutive et intérêt biochronologique. Palaeovertebrata, Vol. 40, Issue. 3, p. e1.

  • Print publication year: 2015
  • Online publication date: August 2015

20 - Morphological disparity of the postcranial skeleton in rodents and its implications for palaeobiological inferences: the case of the extinct Theridomyidae (Rodentia, Mammalia)



Rodents constitute roughly half of the current mammalian diversity. This astonishing specific diversity is shown most notably in terms of ecology as they occupy the majority of the ecosystems on the planet, from aquatic environments to desert areas. Current rodent diversity is the result of multiple radiations linked to the invasion of new ecological niches. The diverse rodent groups developed a wide locomotor repertoire, shown first and foremost by a morphological differentiation of the postcranial skeleton. Startlingly, rodents have not traditionally been the animal model of choice for investigating the evolution of the mammalian postcranial anatomy, probably because a great majority of extant species (murids in particular) are often depicted as “terrestrial generalists”. In comparison to the abundant literature on cranial and dental morphology, the rodent postcranial anatomy has received relatively little attention. Meanwhile, inconsistent terminology and imprecision in the definition of habitats, postural behaviors, feeding behaviors, locomotor repertoires (Table 20.1), which are often used interchangeably, have led to confusion.

The fossil record has only occasionally been considered and the extinct species under study often belong to families that still have existing representatives, like sciurids and murids (Vianey-Liaud, 1974; Emry and Thorington, 1982; Szalay, 1985; Price, 1993; Thorington and Darrow, 2000; Bover et al., 2010; Michaux et al., 2012), caviomorphs (Carrano, 1997; Elissamburu and Vizcaino, 2004; Weisbecker and Schmid, 2007; Candela and Picasso, 2008; Araújo et al., 2013), and castoroids (Samuels and Valkenburgh, 2008), although a few concern extinct rodent groups, such as paramyids (Wood, 1962; Szalay, 1985; Rose and Chinnery, 2004). Extinct rodents are mainly documented by isolated bones and finding complete skeletons remains a very rare event. Thus, reconstructing the life history of extinct rodents based on postcranial features seems tentative and extremely challenging. In this context, can palaeontologists contribute to efforts to better understand the evolution of the rodent postcranial anatomy?

Recommend this book

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this book to your organisation's collection.

Evolution of the Rodents
  • Online ISBN: 9781107360150
  • Book DOI:
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to *
Araújo, F. A. P., de Sesoko, N. F., Rahal, S. al. (2013). Bone morphology of the hind limbs in two caviomorph rodents. Anatomia Histologia Embryologia, Journal of Veterinary Medicine, 42, 114–123.
Biochro, M (1997). Actes du Congrès BiochroM'97 Montpellier 14–17 avril, Aguilar J.-P., Legendre S., and Michaux J. (éditeurs.)Mémoires et Travaux de l'Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Institut de Montpellier, 21, 818pp.
Bosma, A. A. (1974). Rodent biostratigraphy of the Eocene–Oligocere transition strata of the Isle of Wight. Utrecht Micropaleontological Bulletin, Special Publications, 1, 1–128.
Bover, P., Alcover, J. A., Michaux, J. J., Hautier, L. and Hutterer, R. (2010). Body shape and lifestyle of the extinct Balearic dormouse Hypnomys (Rodentia, Gliridae), new evidence from the study of associated skeletons. PLoS ONE, 5 (12), e15817, 1–11.
Candela, A. M. and Picasso, M. B. J. (2008). Functional anatomy of the limbs of Erethizontidae (Rodentia, Caviomorpha), indicators of locomotor behavior in Miocene porcupines. Journal of Morphology, 269, 552–593.
Carrano, M. T. (1997). Morphological indicators of foot posture in mammals, a statistical and biomechanical analysis. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society of London, 121, 77–104.
Elissamburu, A. and Vizcaino, S. F. (2004). Limb proportions and adaptations in caviomorph rodents (Rodentia, Caviomorpha). Journal of Zoology, 262, 145–159.
Emry, R. J. and Thorington, R. W. (1982). Descriptive and comparative osteology of the oldest fossil squirrel, Protosciurus (Rodentia: Sciuridae). Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology, 47, 1–35.
Engesser, B. and Mödden, C. (1997). A new version of the biozonation of the Lower Freshwater Molasse (Oligocene and Agenian) of Switzerland and Savoy on the basis of fossil mammals. Actes du Congrès BiochroM'97 Montpellier. Mémoires et Travaux de l'EPHE, Institut de Montpellier, 21, 475–500.
Engesser, B. and Storch, G. (1999). Eomyiden (Mammalia, Rodentia) aus dem Oberoligozän von Enspel im Westerwald (Westdeuschland). Eclogae Geologiae Helvetiae, 92, 483–493.
Escarguel, G., Marandat, B. and Legendre, S. (1997). Sur l’âge numérique des faunes de mammifères du Paléogène d'Europe occidentale, en particulier celles de l'Eocène inférieur et moyen. Actes du Congrès BiochroM'97, Montpellier. Mémoires et Travaux de l'EPHE, Institut de Montpellier, 21, 443–460.
Fabre, A.-C., Cornette, R., Slater, al. (2013). Getting a grip on the evolution of grasping in musteloid carnivorans: a three-dimensional analysis of forelimb shape. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 26, 1521–1535.
Greene, E. C. (1935). Anatomy of the rat. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, N.S., 27, 1–370.
Hartenberger, J.-L. (1973). Etude systématique des Theridomyoidea (Rodentia) de l'Eocène supérieur. Mémoires de la Société Géologique de France, n.s. 57, 117, 1–74.
Hooker, J. J., Grimes, S. T., Mattey, D. P., Collinson, M. E. and Sheldon, N. D. (2009). Refined correlation of the UK Late Eocene-Early Oligocene Solent Group and timing its climate history. The Geological Society of America, Special Papers, 452, 179–195.
Katz, M. E., Miller, K. G., Wright, J. al. (2008). Stepwise transition for the Eocene greenhouse to the Oligocene icehouse. Nature Geoscience, 1, 329–334.
Lartet, E. (1869). Sur le Trechomys bonduelli et deux autres rongeurs fossiles de l'Eocène parisien. Annales de Sciences Naturelles, Paris, 12, 151–166
Lavocat, R. (1951). Révision de la faune des mammifères oligocènes d'Auvergne et du Velay. Ed. « Sciences et Avenir », Paris, 153 pp.
Lavocat, R. (1955). Sur un squelette de Pseudosciurus provenant du gisement d'Armissan (Aude). Annales de Paléontologie, 41, 77–89.
Michaux, J., Hautier, L., Hutterer, al. (2012). Body shape and life style of the extinct rodent Canariomys bravoi (Mammalia, Murinae) from Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain). Comptes Rendus Palevol, 11, 485–494.
Mödden, C. (1993). Revision der Archeomyini Schlosser (Rodentia, Mammalia) des eurospäischen Oberoligozän. Schweizerische Paläontologische Abhandlungen, 115, 1–83.
Musser, G. G. (1972). The species of Hapalomys (Rodentia, Muridae). American Museum Novitates, 2503, 1–27.
Musser, G. G. (1981). A new genus of arboreal rat from West Java, Indonesia. Zoologische Verhandelingen, 189, 1–35.
Pelaez-Campomanes, P. (1995). Primates and rodents from the Middle Eocene of Casa Ramon (Huesca, Spain). Proceedings of the Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen, 98, 291–312.
Picot, L., Becker, D., Cavin, al. (2008). Sédimentologie et Paléontologie des paléoenvironnements côtiers rupéliens de la molasse marine rhénane dans le Jura Suisse. Swiss Journal of Geosciences, 101, 483–513.
Pierce, S. E., Clack, J. A. and Hutchinson, J. R. (2012). Three-dimensional limb joint mobility in the early tetrapod Ichthyostega. Nature, 486, 523–526.
Price, M. V. (1993). A functional-morphometric analysis of forelimbs in bipedal and quadrupedal heteromyid rodents. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 50, 339–360.
Rose, K. D. and Chinnery, B. J. (2004). The postcranial skeleton of Early Eocene rodents. Bulletin Carnegie Museum of Natural History, 36, 211–244.
Samuels, J. X. and van Valkenburgh, B. (2008). Skeletal indicators of locomotor adaptations in living and extinct rodents. Journal of Morphology, 269, 1387–1411.
Schmidt-Kittler, N. (1971). Odontologische Untersuchungen an Pseudosciuriden (Rodentia, Mammalia) des Altertiärs. Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften – Mathematisch-Naturwissenchaftliche Klasse, Abhandlungen, 150, 1–133.
Schmidt-Kittler, N. and Storch, G. (1985). Ein vollständiges Theridomyiden-Skelett (Mammalia, Rodentia) mit Rennmaus-Anpassungen aus dem Oligozän von Céreste, S-Frankreich. Senckenbergiana lethaea, 66, 89–109.
Schmidt-Kittler, N. and Vianey-Liaud, M. (1987). Morphometric analysis of the genus Issiodoromys (Theridomyidae, Rodentia) of the European Oligocene. Proceedings of Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen, Amsterdam, B, 90, 281–306.
Schmidt-Kittler, N., Vianey-Liaud, M., Comte, B. and Mödden, C. (1997). Biostratigraphic relevance of the rodent genus Issiodoromys in the European Upper Oligocene. In BiochroM'97, Mémoires et Travaux de l'EPHE, Institut de Montpellier, eds. Aguilar, J.-P., Legendre, S. and Michaux, J., 21, 375–395.
Seckel, L. and Janis, C. (2008). Convergences in scapula morphology among small cursorial mammals: an osteological correlate for locomotory specialization. Journal of Mammalian Evolution, 15, 261–279.
Szalay, F. S. (1985). Rodent and lagomorph morphotype adapatations, origins, and relationships, some postcranial attributes analyzed. In: Evolutionary Relationships Among Rodents: a Multidisciplinary Analysis, eds. Luckett, W. P. and Hartenberger, J.-L.. New York: Plenum Press, pp. 83–132.
Thaler, L. (1966). Les rongeurs fossiles du Bas-Languedoc dans leurs rapports avec l'histoire des faunes et la stratigraphie du Tertiaire d'Europe, Mémoires du Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, 17, 1–295.
Thorington, R. W. Jr. and Darrow, K. (2000). Anatomy of the squirrel wrist: bones, ligaments, and muscles. Journal of Morphology, 246, 85–102.
Tobien, H. (1972). Mikromammalier aus dem alttertiären Melanienton von Nordhessen 2-Rodentia. Biostratigraphie, Biostratonomie. Notizblatt des Hessischen Landsamtes für Bodenforschung zu Wiesbaden, 100, 7–40.
Van Simaeys, S. and Vanderberghe, N. (2006). Rupelian. Geologica Belgica, 9 (1–2), 95–101.
Vanderberghe, N., Hilgen, F.J. and Speijer, R.P. (2012). The Paleogene period. In: The Geologic Time Scale, eds. Gradstein, F. M., Ogg, J. G., Schmitz, M. and Ogg, G.. Elsevier, pp. 856–907.
Vianey-Liaud, M. (1972). L’évolution du genre Theridonys à l'Oligocène moyen. Intérêt biostratigraphique. Bulletin du Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, 98, 18, 295–372.
Vianey-Liaud, M. (1974). Palaeosciurus goti nov. sp., écureuil terrestre de l'Oligocène moyen du Quercy. Données nouvelles sur l'apparition des Sciuridés en Europe, Annales de Paléontologie (Vertébrés), 60, 103–122.
Vianey-Liaud, M. (1976). Les Issiodoromyinae (Rodentia, Theridomyidae) de l'Eocène supérieur à l'Oligocène inférieur en Europe Occidentale. Palaeovertebrata, Montpellier, 7, 1–115.
Vianey-Liaud, M. (1979). Evolution des rongeurs à l'Oligocène en Europe Occidentale. Palaeontographica A, 166, 136–236.
Vianey-Liaud, M. (1991). Les rongeurs de l'Eocène terminal et de l'Oligocène d'Europe comme indicateurs de leur environnement. Paleogeography, Paleoclimatology, Paleoecology, 85, 15–28.
Vianey-Liaud, M. (1998). La radiation des Theridomyinae (Rodentia) à l'Oligocène inférieur, modalités et implications biochronologiques. Geologica et Paleontologica, 32, 253–285.
Vianey-Liaud, M. and Ringeade, M. (1993). La radiation des Theridomyidae (Rodentia) hypsodontes à l'Eocène supérieur. Géobios, 26, 455–495.
Vianey-Liaud, M. and Schmid, B. (2009). Diversité, Datation et Paléoenvironnement de la faune de mammifères oligocène de Cavalé (Quercy, SW France) : contribution de l'analyse morphométrique des Theridomyinae (Mammalia, Rodentia). Mémoire Jubilaire L. de Bonis, Geodiversitas, 31, 223–255.
Weisbecker, V. and Schmid, S. (2007). Autopodial skeletal diversity in hystricognath rodents, Functional and phylogenetic aspects. Mammalian Biology, 72, 27–44.
Wood, A. E. (1962). The Early Tertiary rodents of the family Paramyidae. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, 52, 1–261.