Periódicos Brasileiros em Medicina Veterinária e Zootecnia

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Taxonomic identification using geometric morphometric approach and limited data: an example using the upper molars of two sympatric species of Calomys (Cricetidae: Rodentia)

Boroni, Natália LimaLobo, Leonardo SouzaRomano, Pedro Seyferth RLessa, Gisele

The taxonomic identification of micromammals might be complicated when the study material is fragmented, as it is the case with pellets and fossil material. On the other hand, tooth morphology generally provides accurate information for species identification. Teeth preserve notably well, retaining their original morphology, unlike skulls and mandibles, which can get crushed or have missing parts. Here, we explored a geometric morphometrics approach (GM) to identify fragmented specimens of two sympatric Calomys Waterhouse, 1837 species - Calomys tener (Winge, 1888) and Calomys expulsus (Lund, 1841) - using the morphology of intact molars as the basis for identification. Furthermore, we included some specimens of uncertain taxonomic identification to test their affinities and the utility of the shape of the molar to identify incomplete specimens. We evaluated the variations in the shape of the first upper molar (M1) among 46 owl pellets specimens of Calomys, including C. expulsus (n = 15), C. tener (n = 15), and unidentified specimens treated as Calomys sp. (n = 16) through GM analysis using 17 landmarks. The data was explored using PCA, PERMANOVA, and Discriminant analyses over the Procrustes residuals matrix were applied to evaluate inter- and intraspecific shape differences. Also, we evaluated whether allometric shape differences could impact the data, but found no evidence of a correlation between size and shape. Our results support that shape differences in the M1 are effective for discriminating between C. tener and C. expulsus. Moreover, the unidentified specimens do not represent a third shape but could be identified with confidence either as C. teneror C. expulsus. Our results show that even with fragmentary materials, GM is a feasible and useful tool for exploring inter-specific shape differences and assisting in taxonomic identification as a complement to traditional qualitative description of diagnostic features in poorly preserved specimens.(AU)

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