• Allometric trajectory;
  • cranium;
  • diet;
  • morphological evolution;
  • phenotypic covariance structure;
  • Rodentia


In this study, allometric trajectories for 51 rodent species, comprising equal representatives from each of the major clades (Ctenohystrica, Muroidea, Sciuridae), are compared in a multivariate morphospace (=allometric space) to quantify magnitudes of disparity in cranial growth. Variability in allometric trajectory patterns was compared to measures of adult disparity in each clade, and dietary habit among the examined species, which together encapsulated an ecomorphological breadth. Results indicate that the evolution of allometric trajectories in rodents is characterized by different features in sciurids compared with muroids and Ctenohystrica. Sciuridae was found to have a reduced magnitude of inter-trajectory change and growth patterns with less variation in allometric coefficient values among members. In contrast, a greater magnitude of difference between trajectories and an increased variation in allometric coefficient values was evident for both Ctenohystrica and muroids. Ctenohystrica and muroids achieved considerably higher adult disparities than sciurids, suggesting that conservatism in allometric trajectory modification may constrain morphological diversity in rodents. The results provide support for a role of ecology (dietary habit) in the evolution of allometric trajectories in rodents.