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Journal Article

Differential scaling patterns of vertebrae and the evolution of neck length in mammals

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Arnold,  Patrick
Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;
The Leipzig School of Human Origins (IMPRS), Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Arnold, P., Amson, E., & Fischer, M. S. (2017). Differential scaling patterns of vertebrae and the evolution of neck length in mammals. Evolution, 71(6), 1587-1599. doi:10.1111/evo.13232.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002D-783C-D
Abstract
Almost all mammals have seven vertebrae in their cervical spines. This consistency represents one of the most prominent examples of morphological stasis in vertebrae evolution. Hence, the requirements associated with evolutionary modifications of neck length have to be met with a fixed number of vertebrae. It has not been clear whether body size influences the overall length of the cervical spine and its inner organization (i.e., if the mammalian neck is subject to allometry). Here, we provide the first large-scale analysis of the scaling patterns of the cervical spine and its constituting cervical vertebrae. Our findings reveal that the opposite allometric scaling of C1 and C2–C7 accommodate the increase of neck bending moment with body size. The internal organization of the neck skeleton exhibits surprisingly uniformity in the vast majority of mammals. Deviations from this general pattern only occur under extreme loading regimes associated with particular functional and allometric demands. Our results indicate that the main source of variation in the mammalian neck stems from the disparity of overall cervical spine length. The mammalian neck reveals how evolutionary disparity manifests itself in a structure that is otherwise highly restricted by meristic constraints.