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Comparative growth in the postnatal skull of the extant North American turtle Pseudemys texana (Testudinoidea: Emydidae)

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Bever, G.S. 2007. Comparative growth in the postnatal skull of the extant North American turtle Pseudemys texana (Testudinoidea: Emydidae). —Acta Zoologica (Stockholm) 88: 000–000

Postnatal growth is one of the many aspects of developmental morphology that remains distinctly understudied in reptiles. Variation and ontogenetic scaling within the skull of the extant emydid turtle, Pseudemys texana is described based on 25 continuous characters. Results indicate that skull shape in this species changes little during postnatal growth relative to the only cryptodire taxa for which comparable datasets are available (Apalone ferox and Sternotherus odoratus). This relative lack of change results in the paedomorphic retention of a largely juvenile appearance in the adult form of P. texana. The skulls of males and females, despite the presence of distinct sexual dimorphism in size, grow with similar scaling patterns, and the few observed differences appear to reflect alteration of the male growth trajectory. Comparisons with A. ferox and S. odoratus reveal a number of similarities and differences that are here interpreted within a phylogenetic context. These preliminary hypotheses constitute predictive statements that phylogenetically bracket the majority of extant cryptodire species and provide baseline comparative data that are necessary for the future recognition of apomorphic transformations. Plasticity of ontogenetic scaling as a response to the homeostatic needs and behaviour of individuals commonly is evoked as a limitation of ontogenetic scaling as a means to inform phylogenetic studies. These evocations are largely unfounded considering that variability itself can evolve and thus be phylogenetically informative.

Keywords: Cryptodira; Reptilia; allometry; cranial morphology; intraspecific variation; ontogeny

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2008-04-01

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