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Transitions between foot postures are associated with elevated rates of body size evolution in mammals

Kubo, T., Sakamoto, M., Meade, A. and Venditti, C. (2019) Transitions between foot postures are associated with elevated rates of body size evolution in mammals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116 (7). pp. 2618-2623. ISSN 0027-8424

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1814329116

Abstract/Summary

Terrestrial mammals have evolved various foot postures: flat-footed (plantigrady), tiptoed (digitigrady), and hooved (unguligrady) postures. Although the importance of foot posture on ecology and body size of mammalian species has been widely recognized, its evolutionary trajectory and influence on body size evolution across mammalian phylogeny remain untested. Taking a Bayesian phylogenetic approach combined with a comprehensive dataset of foot postures in 880 extant mammalian species, we investigated the evolutionary history of foot postures and rates of body size evolution, within the same posture and at transitions between postures. Our results show that the common ancestor of mammals was plantigrade, and transitions predominantly occurred only between plantigrady and digitigrady and between digitigrady and unguligrady. At the transitions between plantigrady and digitigrady and between digitigrady and unguligrady, rates of body size evolution are significantly elevated leading to the larger body masses of digitigrade species (∼1 kg) and unguligrade species (∼78 kg) compared with their respective ancestral postures [plantigrady (∼0.75 kg) and digitigrady]. Our results demonstrate the importance of foot postures on mammalian body size evolution and have implications for mammalian body size increase through time. In addition, we highlight a way forward for future studies that seek to integrate morphofunctional and macroevolutionary approaches.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences > Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
ID Code:81921
Publisher:National Academy of Sciences

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