3D Photogrammetry of Bat Skulls: Perspectives for Macro-evolutionary Analyses

Giada Giacomini*, Dino Scaravelli, Anthony Herrel, Alessio Veneziano, Danilo Russo, Richard P. Brown, Carlo Meloro

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)
269 Downloads (Pure)


Photogrammetry (PH) is relatively cheap, easy to use, flexible and portable but its power and limitations have not been fully explored for studies of small animals. Here we assessed the accuracy of PH for the reconstruction of 3D digital models of bat skulls by evaluating its potential for evolutionary morphology studies at interspecific (19 species) level. Its reliability was assessed against the performance of micro CT scan (µCT) and laser scan techniques (LS). We used 3D geometric morphometrics and comparative methods to quantify the amount of size and shape variation due to the scanning technique and assess the strength of the biological signal in relation to both the technique error and phylogenetic uncertainty. We found only minor variation among techniques. Levels of random error (repeatability and procrustes variance) were similar in all techniques and no systematic error was observed (as evidenced from principal component analysis). Similar levels of phylogenetic signal, allometries and correlations with ecological variables (frequency of maximum energy and bite force) were detected among techniques. Phylogenetic uncertainty interacted with technique error but without affecting the biological conclusions driven by the evolutionary analyses. Our study confirms the accuracy of PH for the reconstruction of challenging specimens. These results encourage the use of PH as a reliable and highly accessible tool for the study of macro evolutionary processes of small mammals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-259
Number of pages11
JournalEvolutionary Biology
Issue number3
Early online date22 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2019


  • 3D reconstruction
  • Geometric morphometrics
  • Measurement error
  • Technique comparison


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