Evolution of Craniodental Correlates of Diet in African Bovidae

Ignacio A. Lazagabaster, John Rowan, Jason M. Kamilar, Kaye Reed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Establishing the relationship between craniodental morphology and dietary ecology in extant species permits inferences to be made about the ecology and biology of fossil species and the habitats they inhabited. Previous work linking diet and craniodental morphology has historically relied upon categorical classifications of diet and has not considered the phylogenetic signal (i.e., non-independence) of morphology due to shared evolutionary history. Here we use phylogenetic comparative methods to analyze the relationship between diet and eight craniodental indices for 40 species of African Bovidae using both categorical and continuous (stable carbon isotopes of enamel, δ13C) classifications of diet. In addition, we examine three modes of evolution that best explain interspecific variation in each of these indices, including: Brownian Motion (BM), Early Burst (EB), and Ornstein-Uhlenbeck (OU). Our results show that the hypsodonty index (HI), the length of the masseteric fossa relative to facial depth (MAS-F), and the length of the diastema relative to the total toothrow length (DIAS-TR) are the best predictors of diet among African bovids. These indices are best explained by either a BM or OU mode of evolution. Our findings have important implications for understanding the evolution of craniodental traits and reconstructing the diet of fossil mammals, especially bovids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)385-396
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Mammalian Evolution
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Africa
  • Bovidae
  • Hypsodonty
  • Phylogenetic comparative methods
  • Stable isotope ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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