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Functional skeletal morphology and its implications for locomotory behavior among three genera of myosoricine shrews (Mammalia: Eulipotyphla: Soricidae)

May 27, 2015

Myosoricinae is a small clade of shrews (Mammalia, Eulipotyphla, Soricidae) that is currently restricted to the African continent. Individual species have limited distributions that are often associated with higher elevations. Although the majority of species in the subfamily are considered ambulatory in their locomotory behavior, species of the myosoricine genus Surdisorex are known to be semifossorial. To better characterize variation in locomotory behaviors among myosoricines, we calculated 32 morphological indices from skeletal measurements from nine species representing all three genera that comprise the subfamily (i.e., Congosorex, Myosorex, Surdisorex) and compared them to indices calculated for two species with well-documented locomotory behaviors: the ambulatory talpid Uropsilus soricipes and the semifossorial talpid Neurotrichus gibbsii. We summarized the 22 most complete morphological variables by 1) calculating a mean percentile rank for each species and 2) using the first principal component from principal component analysis of the indices. The two methods yielded similar results and indicate grades of adaptations reflecting a range of potential locomotory behaviors from ambulatory to semifossorial that exceeds the range represented by the two talpids. Morphological variation reflecting grades of increased semifossoriality among myosoricine shrews is similar in many respects to that seen for soricines, but some features are unique to the Myosoricinae.