Journal article

Common patterns of skull bone fusion and their potential to discriminate different ontogenetic stages in extant birds


  • 2021
Published in:
  • Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. - 2021, vol. 9
English The degree of sutural closure between bones generally allows for the classification of skeleton maturity in tetrapods. In mammals, the sutural closure of skull bones was previously used as proxy to evaluate the ontogenetic stage of single individuals. However, due to temporal variation, this process can be only applied among mammalian subclades, but not for all mammals in general. In contrast, the process of sutural closures in bird skulls could be a more reliable ontogenetic proxy for this clade as adult birds commonly show a generally high degree of bone fusion. To test this, we studied the process of sutural closure in ontogenetic series of 18 extant bird species regarding the presence of an ontogenetic signal and compared the results with changes in skull size and proportions. Univariate analyses indicate that bone fusion happens faster in altricial than in precocial birds. However, the use of PCoA and multivariate regressions reveal that the skull bone fusion follows a common pattern among birds and thus can be used as proxy to identify different ontogenetic stages. In general, the process of sutural closure spreads from posterior to anterior and from ventral to dorsal. In contrast, skull measurements reflect rather interspecific allometry than ontogeny. The used of bone fusion as proxy will help to better identify and compare different stages of maturation in birds, including historical material from osteological collections.
Faculté des sciences et de médecine
Département de Géosciences
  • English
Open access status
Persistent URL

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