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1 January 2016 Cranial Dimensions as Estimators of Body Mass and Locomotor Habits in Extant and Fossil Rodents
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Estimating body mass and locomotor habits of fossil rodents is challenging for taxa without available postcranial material. Although equations exist to estimate body mass from dental dimensions based on extant rodents, the applicability of such equations is doubtful given that modern rodents have evolved highly specialized teeth, whereas fossil taxa often exhibit a much less derived condition. For the present study, 11 cranial variables from a sample of 203 extant rodents of known body mass representing a range of taxonomic groups were assessed using reduced major axis (RMA) regression. The results show a strong correlation between body mass and each of the 11 cranial variables. The best estimators for body mass are skull length and cheek-tooth area, whereas the least reliable measures are palate length, and foramen magnum, as well as braincase and occipital condyle dimensions. We estimated body mass for specimens of five fossil Ischyromyidae rodents for which body mass had never been estimated (Paramys copei, P. delicatus, Reithroparamys delicatissimus, Rapamys atramontis, and Ischyromys typus). Principal components and canonical variates analyses based on 10 cranial dimensions for 103 members of Sciuromorpha demonstrate that a relationship exists between locomotor habits and cranial variables in this suborder. In these analyses, early ischyromyids are all placed in the terrestrial group with Aplodontia, Marmota, Cynomys, and Spermophilus. This contradicts previous hypotheses regarding early rodent locomotion, which suggested that they were arboreal or more generalized in their habits.
© by the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
Ornella C. Bertrand, Michael A. Schillaci and Mary T. Silcox "Cranial Dimensions as Estimators of Body Mass and Locomotor Habits in Extant and Fossil Rodents," Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 36(1), (1 January 2016).
Received: 9 September 2014; Accepted: 1 January 2015; Published: 1 January 2016

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