Functional Morphometric Analysis of the Furcula in Mesozoic Birds

Roger A. Close, Emily J. Rayfield

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

23 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The furcula displays enormous morphological and structural diversity. Acting as an important origin for flight muscles involved in the downstroke, the form of this element has been shown to vary with flight mode. This study seeks to clarify the strength of this form-function relationship through the use of eigenshape morphometric analysis coupled with recently developed phylogenetic comparative methods (PCMs), including phylogenetic Flexible Discriminant Analysis (pFDA). Additionally, the morphospace derived from the furculae of extant birds is used to shed light on possible flight adaptations of Mesozoic fossil taxa. While broad conclusions of earlier work are supported (U-shaped furculae are associated with soaring, strong anteroposterior curvature with wing-propelled diving), correlations between form and function do not appear to be so clear-cut, likely due to the significantly larger dataset and wider spectrum of flight modes sampled here. Interclavicular angle is an even more powerful discriminator of flight mode than curvature, and is positively correlated with body size. With the exception of the close relatives of modern birds, the ornithuromorphs, Mesozoic taxa tend to occupy unique regions of morphospace, and thus may have either evolved unfamiliar flight styles or have arrived at similar styles through divergent musculoskeletal configurations.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere36664
Pages (from-to)-
Number of pages20
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume7
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2012

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