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Data from: Shared extremes by ectotherms and endotherms: body elongation in mustelids is associated with small size and reduced limbs

Citation

Law, Chris J.; Slater, Graham J.; Mehta, Rita S. (2019), Data from: Shared extremes by ectotherms and endotherms: body elongation in mustelids is associated with small size and reduced limbs, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.m55q9p0

Abstract

An elongate body with reduced or absent limbs has evolved independently in many ectothermic vertebrate lineages. While much effort has been spent examining the morphological pathways to elongation in these clades, quantitative investigations into the evolution of elongation in endothermic clades are lacking. We quantified body shape in 61 musteloid mammals (red panda, skunks, raccoons, and weasels) using the head-body elongation ratio. We also examined the morphological changes that may underlie the evolution towards more extreme body plans. We found that a mustelid clade comprised of Helictidinae, Guloninae, Ictonychinae, Mustelinae, and Lutrinae exhibited an evolutionary transition towards more elongate bodies. Furthermore, we discovered that elongation of the body is associated with the evolution of other key traits such as a reduction in body size and a reduction in forelimb length but not hindlimb length. This relationship between body elongation and forelimb length has not previously been quantitatively established for mammals but is consistent with trends exhibited by ectothermic vertebrates and suggests a common pattern of trait covariance associated with body shape evolution. This study provides the framework for documenting body shapes across a wider range of mammalian clades to better understand the morphological changes influencing shape disparity across all vertebrates.

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