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Ontogenetic allometry in the locomotor skeleton of specialized half-bounding mammals

  • Andrew R. Lammers (a1) and Rebecca Z. German (a1)

Specialization for a locomotor behaviour may affect limb bone morphology throughout ontogeny. Ontogenetic development of the limb skeletons of two mammalian species, which are behaviourally specialized for the half-bounding gait (Chinchilla lanigera and Oryctolagus cuniculus), were compared to two similarly-sized species which are not specialized for half-bounding (Rattus norvegicus and Monodelphis domestica). Limb bone lengths and anteroposterior diameters (mediolateral diameters for the radius and metacarpal) were measured from radiographs taken throughout the ontogeny of each species. Body mass was also measured repeatedly during growth. Bone measurements were regressed against body mass, as well as forelimb bone length vs serially homologous hindlimb bone length, bone length vs total limb length and bone length vs width. Similar comparisons were made among adults of each species using ratios. Although there were many significant differences among species, overall there were few consistent differences in adult scaling ratios or ontogenetic allometry slopes between specialized and generalized groups. Adult specialized half-bounders had significantly narrower tibiae and metatarsals than the gait-generalized runners. Specialized half-bounders usually had similar slopes for hindlimb length vs width ontogenetic comparisons, but the non-specialized species did not group together. However, there were two patterns that occurred among all four species: (1) hindlimb bone lengths nearly always grew faster than the serially homologous forelimb bone lengths in all species; (2) proximal elements usually increased in length proportionally faster than distal elements. In conclusion, small mammals may share strong developmental constraints that govern their relative growth rates. It is also likely that there are different selective pressures on juveniles and adults, but that these selective pressures may not be different between specialized and unspecialized runners during ontogeny.

Corresponding author
All correspondence to: A. R. Lammers, Department of Biological Sciences, Irvine Hall, Ohio University, Athens, OH 45701, U.S.A. E-mail:
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Journal of Zoology
  • ISSN: 0952-8369
  • EISSN: 1469-7998
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-zoology
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