Convergences in Scapula Morphology among Small Cursorial Mammals: An Osteological Correlate for Locomotory Specialization

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Abstract

Small cursorial mammals, such as lagomorphs, elephant shrews, and the more cursorial caviomorph rodents, share both the similar locomotor gait of rapid half-bounding and a similar scapula anatomy of a long, slender, caudally projecting metacromion process. This scapular morphology is also present in some notoungulates (extinct endemic South American ungulates), in rabbit-like taxa such as Propachyruchos. In the rabbit Oryctolagus this elongated metacromion process serves to increase the moment arm of the acromiotrapezius and levator scapulae ventralis muscles, which we propose may aid in scapula stabilization and resisting ground reaction forces during the landing phase onto a single forelimb in half-bounding. A long, slender metacromion process is thus an osteological correlate of locomotor specialization, that of rapid half-bounding in small to medium-sized mammals.

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