Coming of age: morphometric variation in the hand skeletons of juvenile and adult Lesser Treeshrews (Scandentia: Tupaiidae: Tupaia minor Günther, 1876)

  • Woodman N
  • Miller-Murthy A
  • Olson L
  • et al.
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Morphometric analyses of the manus skeleton have proven useful in understanding species limits and morphological divergence among tupaiid treeshrews (Scandentia: Tupaiidae). Specimens in these studies are typically limited to mature individuals with fully erupted permanent dentition, which eliminates potentially confounding variation attributable to age, but also can exclude rare taxa and small island populations that are poorly represented in systematic collections. To determine the real limits associated with including immature animals in such studies, we used multivariate analyses to study sexual and age variation of the manus skeleton in two allopatric populations of the Lesser Treeshrew (Tupaia minor Günther, 1876) from the Malay Peninsula and from Borneo that we treated as separate samples. Individuals were aged using dental eruption of the permanent dentition. We also recorded the degree of epiphyseal fusion of the bones of the manus based on x-rays of study skins. We then tested our ability to distinguish the two populations using a series of discriminant function analyses of hand measurements from samples that included varying proportions of immature individuals and adults. We found no evidence of sexual dimorphism in hand proportions, permitting us to combine females and males in our samples. Epiphyseal fusion of the metacarpals and phalanges typically occurs by the time the third molars have completely erupted, and fusion of the distal epiphyses of the radius and ulna typically occurs by the time the permanent fourth premolars are in place. There is occasional asynchrony between dental age and epiphyseal fusion. In both populations, the hands of most infants and subadults provide morphometric values within the range of variation of adults, although they are typically distributed in the lower part of the adult range and have the potential to bias the sample toward lower mean size. The inclusion of infants and subadults when attempting to discriminate between two taxa generally results in lower rates of correct classifications, although the rates increase as the sample of immature individuals is limited to older subadults. As a general rule, we recommend that specimens of infants and subadults continue to be excluded from analyses when exploring taxonomic boundaries among treeshrews. In cases of extremely small sample sizes of adults, however, older subadults—in which the permanent third premolars are erupting or in place—can be used with appropriate caution.




Woodman, N., Miller-Murthy, A., Olson, L. E., & Sargis, E. J. (2020). Coming of age: morphometric variation in the hand skeletons of juvenile and adult Lesser Treeshrews (Scandentia: Tupaiidae: Tupaia minor Günther, 1876). Journal of Mammalogy, 101(4), 1151–1164.

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