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Keywords:

  • Arvicolinae;
  • evo-devo;
  • evolution;
  • inhibitory cascade;
  • rodents

The study of mammalian evolution is often based on insights into the evolution of teeth. Developmental studies may attempt to address the mechanisms that guide evolutionary changes. One example is the new developmental model proposed by Kavanagh et al. (2007), which provides a high-level testable model to predict mammalian tooth evolution. It is constructed on an inhibitory cascade model based on a dynamic balance of activators and inhibitors, regulating differences in molar size along the lower dental row. Nevertheless, molar sizes in some mammals differ from this inhibitory cascade model, in particular in voles. The aim of this study is to point out arvicoline and murine differences within this model and to suggest an alternative model. Here we demonstrate that the inhibitory cascade is not followed, due to the arvicoline's greatly elongated first lower molar. We broaden the scope of the macroevolutionary model by projecting a time scale onto the developmental model. We demonstrate that arvicoline evolution is rather characterized by a large gap from the oldest vole to more recent genera, with the rapid acquisition of a large first lower molar contemporaneous to their radiation. Our study provides alternative evolutionary hypotheses for mammals with different trajectories of development.