Evolutionary allometry of the thoracolumbar centra in felids and bovids

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Mammals have evolved a remarkable range of body sizes, yet their overall body plan remains unaltered. One challenge of evolutionary biology is to understand the mechanisms by which this size diversity is achieved, and how the mechanical challenges associated with changing body size are overcome. Despite the importance of the axial skeleton in body support and locomotion, and much interest in the allometry of the appendicular skeleton, little is known about vertebral allometry outside primates. This study compares evolutionary allometry of the thoracolumbar centra in two families of quadrupedal running mammals: Felidae and Bovidae. I test the hypothesis that, as size increases, the thoracolumbar region will resist increasing loads by becoming a) craniocaudally shorter, and b) larger in cross‐sectional area, particularly in the sagittal plane. Length, width, and height of the thoracolumbar centra of 23 felid and 34 bovid species were taken. Thoracic, prediaphragmatic, lumbar, and postdiaphragmatic lengths were calculated, and diameters were compared at three equivalent positions: the midthoracic, the diaphragmatic and the midlumbar vertebra. Allometric slopes were calculated using a reduced major axis regression, on both raw and independent contrasts data. Slopes and elevations were compared using an ANCOVA. As size increases the thoracolumbar centra become more robust, showing preferential reinforcement in the sagittal plane. There was less allometric shortening of the thoracic than the lumbar region, perhaps reflecting constraints due to its connection with the respiratory apparatus. The thoracic region was more robust in bovids than felids, whereas the lumbar region was longer and more robust in felids than bovids. Elongation of lumbar centra increases the outlever of sagittal bending at intervertebral joints, increasing the total pelvic displacement during dorsomobile running. Both locomotor specializations and functional regionalization of the axial skeleton appear to have influenced its response to increasing size.
Original languageUndefined
Pages (from-to)818-831
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Morphology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2015

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