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Evolutionary morphology of the Tenrecoidea (Mammalia) carpal complex

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The mammalian carpus can be difficult to interpret both phylogenetically and functionally. It is evolutionarily constrained in terms of functional morphology, yet there is considerable variation among many eutherian and metatherian lower and higher level taxa. The ecologically diverse Tenrecoidea (Mammalia) is a useful model for morphological interpretation of the interplay between function and phylogenetic constraint. Elements from the wrist and hand of 13 tenrecoid species, and one species each from Macroscelididae, Solenodontidae, and Erinaceidae, were compared to test form–function hypotheses of specific carpal, metacarpal, and phalangeal characters. Qualitative comparisons illustrate that several aspects of the tenrecoid carpus can be correlated with positional behaviour. Convergences within Tenrecoidea, and between tenrecoids and nontenrecoids with similar locomotor regimes, confirm a small number of carpal characters and a larger number of distal forearm, metacarpal, and phalangeal characters that reliably correspond with functional expectations. In addition, several features of the carpus appear to be phylogenetically constrained and indicate specific affinities within Tenrecoidea. Finally, there are a significant number of carpal features that vary among the studied taxa and remain ambiguous in terms of phylogenetic and/or functional significance. © 2008 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2008, 93, 267–288.

Keywords: Afrotheria; Tenrecidae; carpals; hand; tenrecs; wrist

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Program in Biology, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY 12504, USA 2: Department of Anthropology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, USA

Publication date: February 1, 2008


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