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Pelvic girdle shape predicts locomotion and phylogeny in batoids



In terrestrial vertebrates, the pelvic girdle can reliably predict locomotor mode. Because of the diminished gravitational effects on positively buoyant bony fish, the same relationship does not appear to exist. However, within the negatively buoyant elasmobranch fishes, benthic batoids employ pelvic fin bottom-walking and punting as primary or supplementary forms of locomotion. Therefore, in this study, we employed geometric and linear morphometrics to investigate if their pelvic girdles exhibit shape characteristics similar to those of sprawling terrestrial vertebrates. We tested for correlates of pelvic girdle shape with 1) Order, 2) Family, 3) Swim Mode, and/or 4) Punt Mode. Landmarks and semilandmarks were placed along outlines of dorsal views of 61 batoid pelvic girdles (3/3 orders, 10/13 families, 35/72 genera). The first three relative warps explained 88.45% of the variation among individuals (P < 0.01%). Only Order and Punt Mode contained groups that were all significantly different from each other (P < 0.01%). Discriminant function analyses indicated that the majority of variation within each category was due to differences in extension of lateral and prepelvic processes and puboischiac bar angle. Over 60% of the original specimens and 55% of the cross-validated specimens were correctly classified. The neutral angle of the propterygium, which articulates with the pelvic girdle, was significantly different among punt modes, whereas only pectoral fin oscillators had differently shaped pelvic girdles when compared with batoids that perform other swimming modes (P < 0.01). Pelvic girdles of batoids vary greatly, and therefore, likely function in ways not previously described in teleost fishes. This study illustrates that pelvic girdle shape is a good predictor of punt mode, some forms of swimming mode, and a species' Order. Such correlation between locomotor style and pelvic girdle shape provides evidence for the convergent evolution of morphological features that support both sprawled-gait terrestrial walking and aquatic bottom-walking. J. Morphol. 275:100–110, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.