Autopodial skeletal diversity in hystricognath rodents: Functional and phylogenetic aspects

Vera Weisbecker, Simone Schmid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


Metapodials and phalanges of the second to fourth digital ray were measured for the hands and feet of 214 specimens belonging to 45 extant species of hystricognath rodents, encompassing members of all major clades of the radiation. Principal components analysis (PCA), the phalangeal index of the third digital ray in the hands and feet, and the relationship between second and fourth digital ray were used to investigate intrinsic autopodial proportions as well as to provide a base for comparisons between hands and feet. PCA separated cursorial Hystricognathi from arboreal ones, but lead to little distinction in other locomotory modes. Cursors have longer metapodials and shorter phalanges, particularly in their hind limb, while arboreal species have relatively longer manual and pedal phalanges. Terrestrial, scansorial, fossorial, and semi-aquatic species were not clearly distinguished, but there is a tendency towards elongated manual digits and relatively short feet in most fossorial species. Closely related species with similar locomotory habits tend to group together in PCA morphospace, and also have similar phalangeal indices. The results are in agreement with current hypotheses on locomotory adaptations of the hand and foot, and concur with many previous findings on autopodial proportions in arboreal, cursorial, and fossorial species. They also highlight the limited use of autopodial proportions for inferring systematic affinities. The lack of distinction in the majority of species is likely related to the lack of highly specialized locomotory types in Hystricognathi.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-44
Number of pages18
JournalMammalian Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • arboreal
  • autopodia
  • cursorial
  • Hystricognathi
  • phalangeal index


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