Hystricognathy vs sciurognathy in the rodent jaw: a new morphometric assessment of hystricognathy applied to the living fossil Laonastes (Diatomyidae).
ABSTRACT: While exceptional for an intense diversification of lineages, the evolutionary history of the order Rodentia comprises only a limited number of morphological morphotypes for the mandible. This situation could partly explain the intense debates about the taxonomic position of the latest described member of this clade, the Laotian rock rat Laonastes aenigmamus (Diatomyidae). This discovery has re-launched the debate on the definition of the Hystricognathi suborder identified using the angle of the jaw relative to the plane of the incisors. Our study aims to end this ambiguity. For clarity, it became necessary to revisit the entire morphological diversity of the mandible in extant and extinct rodents. However, current and past rodent diversity brings out the limitations of the qualitative descriptive approach and highlights the need for a quantitative approach. Here, we present the first descriptive comparison of the masticatory apparatus within the Ctenohystrica clade, in combining classic comparative anatomy with morphometrical methods. First, we quantified the shape of the mandible in rodents using 3D landmarks. Then, the analysis of osteological features was compared to myological features in order to understand the biomechanical origin of this morphological diversity. Among the morphological variation observed, the mandible of Laonastes aenigmamus displays an intermediate association of features that could be considered neither as sciurognathous nor as hystricognathous.
Project description:The early evolutionary and paleobiogeographic history of the diverse rodent clade Hystricognathi, which contains Hystricidae (Old World porcupines), Caviomorpha (the endemic South American rodents), and African Phiomorpha (cane rats, dassie rats, and blesmols) is of great interest to students of mammalian evolution, but remains poorly understood because of a poor early fossil record. Here we describe the oldest well-dated hystricognathous rodents from an earliest late Eocene (approximately 37 Ma) fossil locality in the Fayum Depression of northern Egypt. These taxa exhibit a combination of primitive and derived features, the former shared with Asian "baluchimyine" rodents, and the latter shared with Oligocene phiomorphs and caviomorphs. Phylogenetic analysis incorporating morphological, temporal, geographic, and molecular information places the new taxa as successive sister groups of crown Hystricognathi, and supports an Asian origin for stem Hystricognathi and an Afro-Arabian origin for crown Hystricognathi, stem Hystricidae, and stem Caviomorpha. Molecular dating of early divergences within Hystricognathi, using a Bayesian "relaxed clock" approach and multiple fossil calibrations, suggests that the split between Hystricidae and the phiomorph-caviomorph clade occurred approximately 39 Ma, and that phiomorphs and caviomorphs diverged approximately 36 Ma. These results are remarkably congruent with our phylogenetic results and the fossil record of hystricognathous rodent evolution in Afro-Arabia and South America.
Project description:In this study, allometric trajectories for 51 rodent species, comprising equal representatives from each of the major clades (Ctenohystrica, Muroidea, Sciuridae), are compared in a multivariate morphospace (=allometric space) to quantify magnitudes of disparity in cranial growth. Variability in allometric trajectory patterns was compared to measures of adult disparity in each clade, and dietary habit among the examined species, which together encapsulated an ecomorphological breadth. Results indicate that the evolution of allometric trajectories in rodents is characterized by different features in sciurids compared with muroids and Ctenohystrica. Sciuridae was found to have a reduced magnitude of inter-trajectory change and growth patterns with less variation in allometric coefficient values among members. In contrast, a greater magnitude of difference between trajectories and an increased variation in allometric coefficient values was evident for both Ctenohystrica and muroids. Ctenohystrica and muroids achieved considerably higher adult disparities than sciurids, suggesting that conservatism in allometric trajectory modification may constrain morphological diversity in rodents. The results provide support for a role of ecology (dietary habit) in the evolution of allometric trajectories in rodents.
Project description:The Fayum Depression of Egypt has yielded fossils of hystricognathous rodents from multiple Eocene and Oligocene horizons that range in age from ?37 to ?30 Ma and document several phases in the early evolution of crown Hystricognathi and one of its major subclades, Phiomorpha. Here we describe two new genera and species of basal phiomorphs, Birkamys korai and Mubhammys vadumensis, based on rostra and maxillary and mandibular remains from the terminal Eocene (?34 Ma) Fayum Locality 41 (L-41). Birkamys is the smallest known Paleogene hystricognath, has very simple molars, and, like derived Oligocene-to-Recent phiomorphs (but unlike contemporaneous and older taxa) apparently retained dP(4)?4 late into life, with no evidence for P(4)?4 eruption or formation. Mubhammys is very similar in dental morphology to Birkamys, and also shows no evidence for P(4)?4 formation or eruption, but is considerably larger. Though parsimony analysis with all characters equally weighted places Birkamys and Mubhammys as sister taxa of extant Thryonomys to the exclusion of much younger relatives of that genus, all other methods (standard Bayesian inference, Bayesian "tip-dating," and parsimony analysis with scaled transitions between "fixed" and polymorphic states) place these species in more basal positions within Hystricognathi, as sister taxa of Oligocene-to-Recent phiomorphs. We also employ tip-dating as a means for estimating the ages of early hystricognath-bearing localities, many of which are not well-constrained by geological, geochronological, or biostratigraphic evidence. By simultaneously taking into account phylogeny, evolutionary rates, and uniform priors that appropriately encompass the range of possible ages for fossil localities, dating of tips in this Bayesian framework allows paleontologists to move beyond vague and assumption-laden "stage of evolution" arguments in biochronology to provide relatively rigorous age assessments of poorly-constrained faunas. This approach should become increasingly robust as estimates are combined from multiple independent analyses of distantly related clades, and is broadly applicable across the tree of life; as such it is deserving of paleontologists' close attention. Notably, in the example provided here, hystricognathous rodents from Libya and Namibia that are controversially considered to be of middle Eocene age are instead estimated to be of late Eocene and late Oligocene age, respectively. Finally, we reconstruct the evolution of first lower molar size among Paleogene African hystricognaths using a Bayesian approach; the results of this analysis reconstruct a rapid latest Eocene dwarfing event along the lineage leading to Birkamys.
Project description:The von Willebrand factor (vWF) gene has been used to understand the origin and timing of Rodentia evolution in the context of placental phylogeny vWF exon 28 sequences of 15 rodent families and eight non-rodent eutherian clades are analysed with two different molecular dating methods (uniform clock on a linearized tree; quartet dating). Three main conclusions are drawn from the study of this nuclear exon. First, Ctenodactylidae (gundis) and Hystricognathi (e.g. porcupines, guinea-pigs, chinchillas) robustly cluster together in a newly recognized clade, named 'Ctenohystrica'. The Sciurognathi monophyly is subsequently rejected. Pedetidae (springhares) is an independent and early diverging rodent lineage, suggesting a convergent evolution of the multiserial enamel of rodent incisors. Second, molecular date estimates are here more influenced by accuracy and choice of the palaeontological temporal references used to calibrate the molecular clock than by either characters analysed (nucleotides versus amino acids) or species sampling. The caviomorph radiation at 31 million years (Myr) and the pig porpoise split at 63 Myr appear to be reciprocally compatible dates. Third, during the radiation of Rodentia, at least three lineages (Gliridae, Sciuroidea and Ctenohystrica) emerged close to the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary, and their common ancestor separated from other placental orders in the Late Cretaceous.
Project description:Laonastes aenigmamus is an enigmatic rodent first described in 2005. Molecular and morphological data suggested that it is the sole representative of a new mammalian family, the Laonastidae, and a member of the Hystricognathi. However, the validity of this family is controversial because fossil-based phylogenetic analyses suggest that Laonastes is a surviving member of the Diatomyidae, a family considered to have been extinct for 11 million years. According to these data, Laonastes and Diatomyidae are the sister clade of extant Ctenodactylidae (i.e., gundies) and do not belong to the Hystricognathi. To solve the phylogenetic position of Laonastes, we conducted a large-scale molecular phylogeny of rodents. The analysis includes representatives of all major rodent taxonomic groups and was based on 5.5 kb of sequence data from four nuclear and two mitochondrial genes. To further validate the obtained results, a short interspersed element insertion analysis including 11 informative loci was also performed. Our molecular data based on sequence and short interspersed element analyses unambiguously placed Laonastes as a sister clade of gundies. All alternative hypotheses were significantly rejected based on Shimodaira-Hasegawa tests, supporting the idea that Laonastes does not belong to the Hystricognathi. Molecular dating analysis also supports an ancient divergence, approximately 44 Mya ago, between Ctenodactylidae and Laonastes. These combined analyses support the hypothesis that Laonastes is indeed a living fossil. Protection of this surviving species would conserve an ancient mammalian family.
Project description:The traditional morphologically grounded placement of South American guinea pig-like rodents (Caviomorpha) within one of the two rodent suborders, Hystricognathi, has been disputed by recent analysis of protein and nucleic acid sequence data. The Caviomorpha and possibly all Hystricognathi would be considered a separate order, distinct from the other rodent suborder, Sciurognathi, and thus of the order Rodentia, and would be placed closer phylogenetically to other mammals [Graur, D., Hide, W. A. & Li, W.-H. (1991) Nature (London) 351, 649-652]. To address the discrepancy between morphological comparisons and sequence analyses, we have applied an alternative form of molecular analysis. We demonstrate that BC1 RNA, a neural-specific small cytoplasmic RNA that is the product of a retropositionally generated gene (a gene derived by reverse transcription of RNA followed by insertion of the DNA copy into the genome), is present in Sciurognathi and guinea pig but not in other mammalian orders including Lagomorpha, Artiodactyla, and Primates. The species-confined, tissue-specific expression of a retroposed sequence therefore supports the morphological evidence for monophyly of Rodentia inclusive of guinea pig and demonstrates the usefulness of such molecular genetic markers. Furthermore, the conservation and tissue-specific expression of the BC1 RNA gene in the two divergent rodent suborders suggests that this macromolecule has been exapted into a functional role (i.e., coopted into a variant or novel function) in the rodent nervous system.
Project description:Studies linking postcranial morphology with locomotion in mammals are common. However, such studies are mostly restricted to caviomorphs in rodents. We present here data from various families, belonging to the three main groups of rodents (Sciuroidea, Myodonta, and Ctenohystrica). The aim of this study is to define morphological indicators for the astragalus and calcaneus, which allow for inferences to be made about the locomotor behaviours in rodents. Several specimens were dissected and described to bridge the myology of the leg with the morphology of the bones of interest. Osteological characters were described, compared, mechanically interpreted, and correlated with a "functional sequence" comprising six categories linked to the lifestyle and locomotion (jumping, cursorial, generalist, fossorial, climber and semi-aquatic). Some character states are typical of some of these categories, especially arboreal climbers, fossorial and "cursorial-jumping" taxa. Such reliable characters might be used to infer locomotor behaviours in extinct species. Linear discriminant analyses (LDAs) were used on a wider sample of species and show that astragalar and calcaneal characters can be used to discriminate the categories among extant species whereas a posteriori inferences on extinct species should be examined with caution.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Rodentia is the most diverse order of placental mammals, with extant rodent species representing about half of all placental diversity. In spite of many morphological and molecular studies, the family-level relationships among rodents and the location of the rodent root are still debated. Although various datasets have already been analyzed to solve rodent phylogeny at the family level, these are difficult to combine because they involve different taxa and genes. RESULTS: We present here the largest protein-coding dataset used to study rodent relationships. It comprises six nuclear genes, 41 rodent species, and eight outgroups. Our phylogenetic reconstructions strongly support the division of Rodentia into three clades: (1) a "squirrel-related clade", (2) a "mouse-related clade", and (3) Ctenohystrica. Almost all evolutionary relationships within these clades are also highly supported. The primary remaining uncertainty is the position of the root. The application of various models and techniques aimed to remove non-phylogenetic signal was unable to solve the basal rodent trifurcation. CONCLUSION: Sequencing and analyzing a large sequence dataset enabled us to resolve most of the evolutionary relationships among Rodentia. Our findings suggest that the uncertainty regarding the position of the rodent root reflects the rapid rodent radiation that occurred in the Paleocene rather than the presence of conflicting phylogenetic and non-phylogenetic signals in the dataset.
Project description:Closely related species are often assumed to be functionally similar. Phylogenetic information is thus widely used to infer functional diversity and assembly of communities. In contrast, evolutionary processes generating functional similarity of phylogenetically distinct taxa are rarely addressed in this context.To investigate the impact of convergent evolution on functional diversity (FD) and phylogenetic diversity (PD), we reconstructed the phylogenetic structure of carabid trophic groups. We then analyzed the mandible shapes using geometric morphometrics to link specialization in functional morphology with feeding specialization among herbivores, generalist carnivores, and specialized consumers of Collembola.Our results show that carabid feeding groups are paraphyletic. Herbivory evolved at least twice and specialization to Collembola predation at least three times. Species within feeding groups share a remarkably similar mandible morphology, which evolved convergently. While specialized mandibles of herbivores and collembolan specialists represent an adaptation to their main food source, the particular mandible morphologies do not necessarily reflect the degree of food specialization within feeding groups. Only a few species with a specialized herbivorous mandible may occasionally feed on animals, but the range of specific food resources in generalist carnivore species is large, despite an almost identical mandible shape.Thus, convergent evolution in specialized feeding groups reverses the relationship between PD and functional similarity compared with generalist carnivores. We conclude that phylogenetic relationship is a poor proxy of FD in carabids. Moreover, the inconsistencies between relatedness, morphological adaptation, and ecological function require caution in the characterization of functional groups. Rather than assuming general relationships between PD and FD, we suggest integrating the analysis of evolutionary processes into functional community analyses.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Gaudeamus is an enigmatic hystricognathous rodent that was, until recently, known solely from fragmentary material from early Oligocene sites in Egypt, Oman, and Libya. Gaudeamus' molars are similar to those of the extant cane rat Thryonomys, and multiple authorities have aligned Gaudeamus with Thryonomys to the exclusion of other living and extinct African hystricognaths; recent phylogenetic analyses have, however, also suggested affinities with South American caviomorphs or Old World porcupines (Hystricidae). METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Here we describe the oldest known remains of Gaudeamus, including largely complete but crushed crania and complete upper and lower dentitions. Unlike younger Gaudeamus species, the primitive species described here have relatively complex occlusal patterns, and retain a number of plesiomorphic features. Unconstrained parsimony analysis nests Gaudeamus and Hystrix within the South American caviomorph radiation, implying what we consider to be an implausible back-dispersal across the Atlantic Ocean to account for Gaudeamus' presence in the late Eocene of Africa. An analysis that was constrained to recover the biogeographically more plausible hypothesis of caviomorph monophyly does not place Gaudeamus as a stem caviomorph, but rather as a sister taxon of hystricids. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: We place Gaudeamus species in a new family, Gaudeamuridae, and consider it likely that the group originated, diversified, and then went extinct over a geologically brief period of time during the latest Eocene and early Oligocene in Afro-Arabia. Gaudeamurids are the only known crown hystricognaths from Afro-Arabia that are likely to be aligned with non-phiomorph members of that clade, and as such provide additional support for an Afro-Arabian origin of advanced stem and basal crown members of Hystricognathi.