The New World family Didelphidae, the basal lineage within marsupials, is commonly viewed as morphologically conservative, yet includes aquatic, terrestrial, scansorial, and arboreal species. Here, I quantitatively estimated the existing variability in size and shape of the Didelphidae scapula (1076 specimens from 56 species) using geometric morphometrics, and compared size and shape differences to evolutionary and ecologic distances. I found considerable variation in the scapula morphology, most of it related to size differences between species. This results in morphologic divergence between different locomotor habits in larger species (resulting from increased mechanical loads), but most smaller species present similarly shaped scapulae. The only exceptions are the water opossum and the short-tailed opossums, and the functional explanations for these differences remain unclear. Scapula size and shape were mapped onto a molecular phytogeny for 32 selected taxa and ancestral size and shapes were reconstructed using squared-changed parsimony. Results indicate that the Didelphidae evolved from a medium- to small-sized ancestor with a generalized scapula, slightly more similar to arboreal ones, but strikingly different from big-bodied present arboreal species, suggesting that the ancestral Didelphidae was a small scansorial animal with no particular adaptations for arboreal or terrestrial habits, and these specializations evolved only in larger-bodied clades.
You have requested a machine translation of selected content from our databases. This functionality is provided solely for your convenience and is in no way intended to replace human translation. Neither BioOne nor the owners and publishers of the content make, and they explicitly disclaim, any express or implied representations or warranties of any kind, including, without limitation, representations and warranties as to the functionality of the translation feature or the accuracy or completeness of the translations.
Translations are not retained in our system. Your use of this feature and the translations is subject to all use restrictions contained in the Terms and Conditions of Use of the BioOne website.
Vol. 63 • No. 9