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Article: A method for mapping morphological convergence on three-dimensional digital models: the case of the mammalian sabre-tooth

Palaeontology - Vol. 64 Part 2 - Cover Image
Publication: Palaeontology
Volume: 64
Part: 4
Publication Date: July 2021
Page(s): 573 584
Author(s): Marina Melchionna, Antonio Profico, Silvia Castiglione, Carmela Serio, Alessandro Mondanaro, Maria Modafferi, Davide Tamagnini, Luigi Maiorano, Pasquale Raia, Lawrence M. Witmer, Stephen Wroe, and Gabriele Sansalone
Addition Information

How to Cite

MELCHIONNA, M., PROFICO, A., CASTIGLIONE, S., SERIO, C., MONDANARO, A., MODAFFERI, M., TAMAGNINI, D., MAIORANO, L., RAIA, P., WITMER, L.M., WROE, S., SANSALONE, G. 2021. . Palaeontology, 64, 4, 573-584. DOI: /doi/10.1111/pala.12542

Author Information

  • Marina Melchionna - Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, dell'Ambiente e delle Risorse Università di Napoli Federico II 80126 Napoli Italy
  • Antonio Profico - PalaeoHub Department of Archaeology & Hull York Medical School University of York Heslington UK
  • Silvia Castiglione - Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, dell'Ambiente e delle Risorse Università di Napoli Federico II 80126 Napoli Italy
  • Carmela Serio - Research Centre in Evolutionary Anthropology & Palaeoecology School of Biological & Environmental Sciences Liverpool John Moores University Liverpool UK
  • Alessandro Mondanaro - Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra Università degli studi di Firenze 50121 Firenze Italy
  • Maria Modafferi - Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, dell'Ambiente e delle Risorse Università di Napoli Federico II 80126 Napoli Italy
  • Davide Tamagnini - Department of Biology & Biotechnologies ‘Charles Darwin’ University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’ viale dell'Università 32 00185 Rome Italy
  • Luigi Maiorano - Department of Biology & Biotechnologies ‘Charles Darwin’ University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’ viale dell'Università 32 00185 Rome Italy
  • Pasquale Raia - Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, dell'Ambiente e delle Risorse Università di Napoli Federico II 80126 Napoli Italy
  • Lawrence M. Witmer - Department of Biomedical Science Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine Ohio University Athens OH 45701 USA
  • Stephen Wroe - Function, Evolution & Anatomy Research Lab Zoology Division School of Environmental & Rural Science University of New England Armidale NSW 2351 Australia
  • Gabriele Sansalone - Function, Evolution & Anatomy Research Lab Zoology Division School of Environmental & Rural Science University of New England Armidale NSW 2351 Australia

Publication History

  • Issue published online: 09 June 2021
  • Manuscript Accepted: 12 March 2021
  • Manuscript Received: 10 August 2020

Funded By

University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’
European Community Research Infrastructure Action under the FP7. Grant Number: ES-TAF-2750
United States National Science Foundation. Grant Numbers: IOB-0517257, IOS-1050154, IOS-1456503

Online Version Hosted By

Wiley Online Library (Open Access)
Get Article: Wiley Online Library [Open Access]

Abstract

Morphological convergence can be assessed using a variety of statistical methods. None of the methods proposed to date enable the visualization of convergence. All are based on the assumption that the phenotypes either converge, or do not. However, between species, morphologically similar regions of a larger structure may behave differently. Previous approaches do not identify these regions within the larger structures or quantify the degree to which they may contribute to overall convergence. Here, we introduce a new method to chart patterns of convergence on three-dimensional models using the R function conv.map. The convergence between pairs of models is mapped onto them to visualize and quantify the morphological convergence. We applied conv.map to a well-known case study, the sabre-tooth morphotype, which has evolved independently among distinct mammalian clades from placentals to metatherians. Although previous authors have concluded that sabre-tooths kill using a stabbing ‘bite’ to the neck, others have presented different interpretations for specific taxa, including the iconic Smilodon and Thylacosmilus. Our objective was to identify any shared morphological features among the sabre-tooths that may underpin similar killing behaviours. From a sample of 49 placental and metatherian carnivores, we found stronger convergence among sabre-tooths than for any other taxa. The morphological convergence is most apparent in the rostral and posterior parts of the cranium. The extent of this convergence suggests similarity in function among these phylogenetically distant species. In our view, this function is most likely to be the killing of relatively large prey using a stabbing bite.

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to Stephan Lautenschlager and an anonymous reviewer for providing important advice. 79 specimens included in the present study are from the PhD database of DT, whose PhD project received support from the ‘Avvio alla Ricerca 2019’ funding which is financed by the University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’. DT also received support from the SYNTHESYS Access programme that is financed by the European Community Research Infrastructure Action under the FP7 (ES-TAF-2750 awarded to DT). LMW acknowledges support from the United States National Science Foundation (IOB-0517257, IOS-1050154, IOS-1456503). We owe a huge debt of thanks to all curators, collection managers and staff, whose help and support was fundamental for the sampling operations. In particular, with anticipated apologies for certainly forgetting to explicitly mention several of the many people to whom thanks are owed, we want to thank: Susana Fraile, Jorge Morales, Géraldine Veron, Aurélie Verguin, Riccardo Castiglia, Cristiano Dal Sasso, Pierfilippo Cerretti, Adriano De Faveri, Saverio Bartolini Lucenti, Paolo Agnelli, Tony Parker, Itatí Olivares, Agustín Ruella and Eulàlia Garcia Franquesa. We also want to thank Denis Geraads and Nikolai Spassov for providing DT with a copy of their 3D model of Y. garevskii.

    Author contributions

    MM and DT contributed equally. MM, AP, and PR conceived the study. MM, AP, PR, and SC prepared the code. MM, GS, DT, LW, AM and MMod contributed to collection and preparation of the study sample. MM, SW and PR lead the writing. All the authors contributed to the preparation of the manuscript.

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