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Keywords:

  • pneumaticity;
  • air sacs;
  • postcranial skeleton;
  • Aves;
  • Anseriformes

Abstract

Anseriform birds were surveyed to examine how the degree of postcranial pneumaticity varies in a behaviorally and size-diverse clade of living birds. This study attempts to extricate the relative effects of phylogeny, body size, and behavioral specializations (e.g., diving, soaring) that have been postulated to influence the extent of postcranial skeletal pneumaticity. One hundred anseriform species were examined as the focal study group. Methods included latex injection of the pulmonary apparatus followed by gross dissection or direct examination of osteological specimens. The Pneumaticity Index (PI) is introduced as a means of quantifying and comparing postcranial pneumaticity in a number of species simultaneously. Phylogenetically independent contrasts (PICs) were used to examine the relationship between body size and the degree of postcranial pneumaticity throughout the clade. There is a high degree of similarity (i.e., clade-specificity) within most anseriform subgroups. As a whole, Anseriformes demonstrate no significant relationship between relative pneumaticity and body size, as indicated by regression analysis of body mass on PI. It is apparent, however, that many clades of diving ducks do exhibit lower PIs than their nondiving relatives. By exclusion of diving taxa from analyses, a significant positive slope is observed and the hypothesis of relatively higher pneumaticity in larger-bodied birds is only weakly supported. However, low correlations indicate that factors other than body size account for much of the variation observed in relative pneumaticity. Pneumaticity profiles were mapped onto existing phylogenetic hypotheses. A reduction in the degree of postcranial pneumaticity occurred independently in at least three anseriform subclades specialized for diving. Finally, enigmatic pneumatic features located in distal forelimb elements of screamers (Anhimidae) result from invasion of bone by a network of subcutaneous air sac diverticula spreading distally along the wings. J. Morphol. 261:141–161, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.