Title
A new hero emerges : another exceptional mammalian spine and its potential adaptive significance A new hero emerges : another exceptional mammalian spine and its potential adaptive significance
Author
Faculty/Department
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Publication type
article
Publication
London ,
Subject
Chemistry
Biology
Human medicine
Source (journal)
Biology letters / Royal Society [London] - London
Volume/pages
9(2013) :5 , p. 1-5
ISSN
1744-9561
Article Reference
20130486
Carrier
E-only publicatie
Target language
English (eng)
Full text (Publishers DOI)
Affiliation
University of Antwerp
Abstract
The hero shrew's (Scutisorex somereni) massive interlocking lumbar vertebrae represent the most extreme modification of the vertebral column known in mammals. No intermediate form of this remarkable morphology is known, nor is there any convincing theory to explain its functional significance. We document a new species in the heretofore monotypic genus Scutisorex; the new species possesses cranial and vertebral features representing intermediate character states between S. somereni and other shrews. Phylogenetic analyses of DNA sequences support a sister relationship between the new species and S. somereni. While the function of the unusual spine in Scutisorex is unknown, it gives these small animals incredible vertebral strength. Based on field observations, we hypothesize that the unique vertebral column is an adaptation allowing these shrews to lever heavy or compressive objects to access concentrated food resources inaccessible to other animals.
E-info
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