The Mustelidae family resides in a wide range of habitats and encompasses a range of locomotor categories: half-bound, semi-aquatic, semi-fossorial, and generalized. There has been limited research on the morphology of the mustelid on both the forelimb and hindlimbs using 2D geometric morphometrics with the focus on functional differences. Previous studies showed adaptation of a more robust and short humerus, prominent medial epicondyle, an elongated olecranon process, high humoral robusticity, epicondyle, and femoral abilities indices in the forelimb of fossorial species for a greater out-force when digging. Some semi-aquatic species have similar morphology to semi-fossorial species, but are distinguishable since they encounter different environmental forces. However, half-bound and generalized species show more overlap in morphology with other locomotor categories since their locomotor categories are unspecialized. This study’s objective is to tests for differences in both the forelimb and hindlimb skeletal dimensions in six species in Mustelidae and two out-group species, representing 4 different locomotor categories to test skeletal differences associated with locomotion.
The sample for this study includes Mustela frenata (long-tailed weasel), M. nivalis (least weasel), M. erminea (short-tailed weasel), Neovison vison (mink), Taxidea taxus (American badger), and Lontra canadensis (river otter). The out-groups include Spilogale putorius (Spotted Skunk) and Mephitis mephitis (Striped Skunk). Standardized photographs were taken for each individual, and 14 humerus, 12 ulna, 11 femur, and 10 tibia 2D landmarks were digitized using ImageJ. Data was adjusted for differences in size and 12 functional indices were calculated. Both principal components analysis and analysis of variance were used to test for species and locomotor differences. Results show significant morphological differences with the river otter and American badger showing the most significant differences from the other species. The Mustela’s were morphologically similar to one another, while the generalizers overlap with many of the locomotor categories. The separation of the otter and badgers are attributed to their specialized locomotor categories, while the similarity among the weasels is attributed to their similar half-bound locomotion.
|Commitee:||Essner, Richard, Williams, Jason|
|School:||Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville|
|School Location:||United States -- Illinois|
|Source:||MAI 56/03M(E), Masters Abstracts International|
|Keywords:||Comparative anatomy, Limb, Morphology, Mustelidae, Osteology|
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