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Limb proportions and adaptations in caviomorph rodents (Rodentia: Caviomorpha)

Authors

  • A. Elissamburu,

    Corresponding author
    1. Departamento Científico Paleontología de Vertebrados; Museo de La Plata, Paseo del Bosque s/n, 1900 La Plata, CONICET, Argentina
      E-mail: elissamburu@hotmail.com
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  • S. F. Vizcaíno

    Corresponding author
    1. Departamento Científico Paleontología de Vertebrados; Museo de La Plata, Paseo del Bosque s/n, 1900 La Plata, CONICET, Argentina
      E-mail: vizcaino@museo.fcnym.unlp.edu.ar (if 1st address not accepted)
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E-mail: elissamburu@hotmail.com

E-mail: vizcaino@museo.fcnym.unlp.edu.ar (if 1st address not accepted)

Abstract

Caviomorph rodents (Rodentia: Caviomorpha) are an anatomically variable group with diverse ecological and morphological types, including cursorial, digging, fossorial and swimming forms. Their appendicular skeleton is rather generalized and extreme modifications or reductions in the long bones of limbs are not present. It is of special interest to evaluate functional adaptive variations of the appendicular skeleton within this group. Although much work has been devoted to study structure, function, and kinematics of legs in mammals, most studies do not consider particular functions and behaviour within different mammalian lineages. Morphometric and biomechanical studies were performed to test the relationship between adaptation and morphology of the bones of the proximal and middle limb segments in terrestrial caviomorph rodents. Fifty-four specimens belonging to 10 species with different limb adaptations and representing a wide range of body sizes were measured. Diameters and functional lengths of long bones were taken and nine functional indices were built. Humerus (HRI) and ulna (URI) robustness, humerus deltoid (SMI) and epicondyle (EI) development, olecranon proportion (IFA), femur (FRI) and tibia (TRI) robustness, and gluteal muscle insertion at femur (GI), were calculated. Only TRI and, to a lesser degree, SMI and EI, were significantly related to body mass. A functional sequence (cursorial–generalized–occasional digging–diggers) which seems to reflect an increase in force and muscular development in middle segments of the fore limb is recognized. The hind limb shows a decrease in the speed efficiency of the femur and an increase in limb robustness in the transition from cursorial to digging forms. Although overlapping of speed and force functions in the limbs is evident, functional differentiation for speed in the proximal, and force in the middle segments can be inferred.

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