We explored modularity and morphological integration of the ventral cranium during postnatal ontogeny in Martino’s vole (Dinaromys bogdanovi). Two closely related phylogenetic groups, originating from the Central and Southeastern part of the species range in the western Balkans, were considered. As expected, both phylogroups had similar patterns of ontogenetic changes in cranial size and shape variation, modularity and integration. At the level of within individual variation, the hypothesis that the viscerocranial and neurocranial regions are separate modules was rejected, indicating that the hypothesized modules are not developmental, but rather functional. At the level of among individual variation, the viscerocranium and the neurocranium could not be recognized as separate modules at the juvenile stage. The strength of association between the hypothesized modules becomes lower with age which finally results in a clear 2-module organization of the ventral cranium at the adult stage. On the other hand, patterns of morphological integration for the cranium as a whole, the viscerocranium and the neurocranium stay consistent across ontogenetic stages. The developmental mechanism producing integration of the cranium as a whole, as well as integration of the neurocranium, varies throughout postnatal ontogeny. In contrast, we detected the ontogenetic stability of the mechanism responsible for covariation of viscerocranial traits which could provide ongoing flexibility of the viscerocranial covariance structure for high functional demands during lifetime. Findings from our study most likely support the idea of the ‘palimpsest-like’ model of covariance structure. Moreover, similarity or dissimilarity in the patterns of within and among individual variation in different sets of analyzed traits and comparisons across ontogenetic stages demonstrate how studies on small mammals other than mice can give new insights into postnatal cranial development.
This is a preliminary and exploratory study of cranial variation in European populations of grayling. We investigated the correspondence between size/shape variation of the dorsal (dc), ventral (vc) and occipital (oc) cranium and phylogenetic relationships (inferred from mitochondrial control region – mtDNA cr and microsatellite dna data) of six grayling populations: three from Balkan phylogenetic clade and two from Caspian phylogenetic clade of the European grayling Thymallus thymallus and one population of the Adriatic grayling Thymallus aeliani, which until recently was considered the Adriatic phylogenetic clade of T. thymallus. Significant size and shape differences were found between populations in all three cranial views. However, significant size-related shape variation (allometry) was found for dc and vc, but not for oc. The size variation of each cranial view does not contain phylogenetic signal, but size variation of oc is consistent with genetic variation inferred from microsatellite dna. Regarding shape variation, a significant phylogenetic signal was detected only for oc, and only the shape variation of oc is consistent with the genetic variation inferred from the mtDNA cr. Moreover, the Adriatic grayling T. aeliani (Soča population) was clearly separated from the three T. thymallus populations of the Balkan phylogenetic clade and the two T. thymallus populations of the Caspian phylogenetic clade only at the level of oc. Thus, our results suggest that different cranial regions differ in allometry, reflect phylo(genetic) relationships differently, and exhibit differences in ecophenotypic plasticity, with oc seeming best suited to represent the phylogenetic relationships of the grayling populations studied.
We conducted a comparative (2D landmark-based geometric and traditional) morphometric analysis on tadpoles at early developmental stages. Two species of brown frog (Rana dalmatina and R. temporaria) and the common toad (Bufo bufo) were involved, all raised in the laboratory from fertilized eggs collected in their natural habitat. Taxonomic identification was confirmed by the DNA barcoding method with the 16S rRNA sequence as the gene marker. Interested to compare the methodologies for quantification and description of morphological differences among tadpoles of mentioned species, we aimed to: 1) calculate interspecies genetic distances as the most relevant measurement for species differentiation, 2) determine and describe size and shape variation, 3) identify relationships among the analyzed species at the morphological level and 4) assess their classification accuracy. Within the framework of the specified aims, both methodologies produced very similar results, i.e., the smallest divergence was between R. dalmatina and R. temporaria, while the most discriminative were B. bufo and R. temporaria. However, we observed subtle shape variation of the distal region of the tail that was detected only by the geometric morphometrics. Our findings support the following. Geometric morphometric method captures more subtle shape differences that were unable to be recovered from linear measurements. It performs slightly better in classification rate. Although it was not quantified, it stands to reason that there is no difference in time investment between the two approaches. Geometric morphometrics provides more information that can be leveraged to answer further questions and it has a clear advantage in visualizing.