Deep evolutionary roots of strepsirrhine primate labyrinthine morphology

Authors

  • Renaud Lebrun,

    1. Anthropologisches Institut und Museum, Universität Zürich-Irchel, Zürich, Switzerland
    2. Institut des Sciences de l’Evolution de Montpellier, Université Montpellier II, Montpellier, France
    3. Institut International Paléoprimatologie et Paléontologie Humaine, Evolution et Paléoenvironnements, UMR 6046 C.N.R.S. & Université de Poitiers, Poitiers, France
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  • Marcia P. De León,

    1. Anthropologisches Institut und Museum, Universität Zürich-Irchel, Zürich, Switzerland
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  • Paul Tafforeau,

    1. European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, Grenoble, France
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  • Christoph Zollikofer

    1. Anthropologisches Institut und Museum, Universität Zürich-Irchel, Zürich, Switzerland
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Renaud Lebrun, Anthropologisches Institut und Museum, Universität Zürich-Irchel, Winterthurerstrasse 190, 8057 Zürich, Switzerland. E: lebrun@aim.uzh.ch

Abstract

The cavity system of the inner ear of mammals is a complex three-dimensional structure that houses the organs of equilibrium and hearing. Morphological variation of the inner ear across mammals reflects differences in locomotor behaviour and hearing performance, and the good preservation of this structure in many fossil specimens permits analogous inferences. However, it is less well known to what extent the morphology of the bony labyrinth conveys information about the evolutionary history of primate taxa. We studied this question in strepsirrhine primates with the aim to assess the potential and limitations of using the inner ear as a phylogenetic marker. Geometric morphometric analysis showed that the labyrinthine morphology of extant strepsirrhines contains a mixed locomotor, allometric and phylogenetic signal. Discriminant analysis at the family level confirmed that labyrinthine shape is a good taxonomic marker. Our results support the hypothesis that evolutionary change in labyrinthine morphology is adequately described with a random walk model, i.e. random phenotypic dispersal in morphospace. Under this hypothesis, average shapes calculated for each node of the phylogenetic tree give an estimate of inner ear shapes of the respective last common ancestors (LCAs), and this information can be used to infer character state polarity. The labyrinthine morphology of the fossil Adapinae is close to the inferred basal morphology of the strepsirrhines. The inner ear of Daubentonia, one of the most derived extant strepsirrhines, is autapomorphic in many respects, but also presents unique similarities with adapine labyrinths.

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