A revised metric for quantifying body shape in vertebrates

Collar, David C., Reynaga, Crystal, Ward, Andrea B. and Mehta, Rita S. (2013) A revised metric for quantifying body shape in vertebrates. Zoology, 116 (4). pp. 246-257. ISSN 0944-2006

Full content URL: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.zool.2013.03.001

A revised metric for quantifying body shape in vertebrates
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Vertebrates exhibit tremendous diversity in body shape, though quantifying this variation has been challenging. In the past, researchers have used simplified metrics that either describe overall shape but reveal little about its anatomical basis or that characterize only a subset of the morphological features that contribute to shape variation. Here, we present a revised metric of body shape, the vertebrate shape index (VSI), which combines the four primary morphological components that lead to shape diversity in vertebrates: head shape, length of the second major body axis (depth or width), and shape of the precaudal and caudal regions of the vertebral column. We illustrate the usefulness of VSI on a data set of 194 species, primarily representing five major vertebrate clades: Actinopterygii, Lissamphibia, Squamata, Aves, and Mammalia. We quantify VSI diversity within each of these clades and, in the course of doing so, show how measurements of the morphological components of VSI can be obtained from radiographs, articulated skeletons, and cleared and stained specimens. We also demonstrate that head shape, secondary body axis, and vertebral characteristics are important independent contributors to body shape diversity, though their importance varies across vertebrate groups. Finally, we present a functional application of VSI to test a hypothesized relationship between body shape and the degree of axial bending associated with locomotor modes in ray-finned fishes. Altogether, our study highlights the promise VSI holds for identifying the morphological variation underlying body shape diversity as well as the selective factors driving shape evolution.

Keywords:Axial skeleton, Body shape diversity, Comparative anatomy, Elongation, Locomotion
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C100 Biology
C Biological Sciences > C300 Zoology
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:35073
Deposited On:15 Apr 2019 09:43

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