Marmots are the largest extant representatives of the squirrel family (Sciuridae). Members of this clade are believed to have conservative skeletal characters and are inclined to convergence in species with similar size and ecology. However, this does not seem to hold for the mandible and cranium of marmots; instead, similarities reflect subgeneric classification or geographic distribution. To understand the pattern of morphological evolution in the genus Marmota, the ontogeny of the cranium is investigated in 7 of the 14 living marmot species. In particular, the role of allometry in producing intra- and interspecific differences is analyzed. Sexual dimorphism in allometric trajectories is found to be negligible, whereas shape traits that characterize a specific age are mostly allometric. Allometry accounts for an important proportion, although not for the majority, of shape variation during postnatal ontogeny of the cranium. Interspecific differences in allometric trajectories are generally small and the majority of shape differences in relation to phylogeny appear early in ontogeny. Thus, allometry might have had a limited role in producing the morphological variation of living marmot species or it might even have constrained the range of evolutionary changes in this clade. A very different role of allometry as a source of morphological novelties can be speculated to exist in earlier stages of marmot evolutionary history, when a highly distinctive cranial shape evolved concomitant with a 2-fold increase in size. Three sets of analyses are performed to investigate the ontogeny of cranial form in Marmota. Three-dimensional (3D) coordinates of anatomical landmarks are used to describe the whole marmot cranium in the first 3D geometric morphometric analysis of a sciurid taxon. Also, anatomical landmarks that describe the dorsal and lateral sides of the cranium are used for 2-dimensional (2D) analyses complementary to previous studies on the ventral cranium. Despite the complexity of the cranium, which makes it a poor candidate for 2D studies, results of 2D and 3D analyses are generally in good agreement.
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