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Data from: Evolutionary shifts in mustelid (Mustelidae: Carnivora) cranial shape, body size, and body shape coincides with the Mid-Miocene Climate Transition

Citation

Law, Chris (2019), Data from: Evolutionary shifts in mustelid (Mustelidae: Carnivora) cranial shape, body size, and body shape coincides with the Mid-Miocene Climate Transition, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.58p45tb

Abstract

Environmental changes can lead to evolutionary shifts in phenotypic traits, which in turn facilitate exploitation of novel adaptive landscapes and lineage diversification. The global cooling, increased aridity, and expansion of open grasslands during the past 50 million years are prime examples of new adaptive landscapes that spurred lineage and ecomorphological diversity of several mammalian lineages such as rodents and large herbivorous megafauna. However, whether these environmental changes facilitated evolutionary shifts in small to mid-sized predator morphology is unknown. Here, I used a complete cranial and body morphological dataset to examine the timing of evolutionary shifts in cranial shape, body size, and body shape within extant mustelids (martens, otters, polecats, and weasels) during the climatic and environmental changes of the Cenozoic. I found that evolutionary shifts in all three traits occurred within extant mustelid subclades just after the onset of the Mid-Miocene Climate Transition. These mustelid subclades first shifted towards more elongate body plans followed by concurrent shifts towards smaller body sizes and more robust crania. I hypothesize that these cranial and body morphological shifts enabled mustelids to exploit novel adaptive zones associated with the climatic and environmental changes of the Mid to Late Miocene, which facilitated significant increases in clade carrying capacity.

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