Hystricognathy vs sciurognathy in the rodent jaw: A new morphometric assessment of hystricognathy applied to the living fossil Laonastes (Diatomyidae)

  • Hautier L
  • Lebrun R
  • Saksiri S
 et al. 
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While exceptional for an intense diversification of lineages, the evolutionary history of the order Rodentia comprises only a limited number of morphological morphotypes for the mandible. This situation could partly explain the intense debates about the taxonomic position of the latest described member of this clade, the Laotian rock rat Laonastes aenigmamus (Diatomyidae). This discovery has re-launched the debate on the definition of the Hystricognathi suborder identified using the angle of the jaw relative to the plane of the incisors. Our study aims to end this ambiguity. For clarity, it became necessary to revisit the entire morphological diversity of the mandible in extant and extinct rodents. However, current and past rodent diversity brings out the limitations of the qualitative descriptive approach and highlights the need for a quantitative approach. Here, we present the first descriptive comparison of the masticatory apparatus within the Ctenohystrica clade, in combining classic comparative anatomy with morphometrical methods. First, we quantified the shape of the mandible in rodents using 3D landmarks. Then, the analysis of osteological features was compared to myological features in order to understand the biomechanical origin of this morphological diversity. Among the morphological variation observed, the mandible of Laonastes aenigmamus displays an intermediate association of features that could be considered neither as sciurognathous nor as hystricognathous.

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  • Lionel Hautier

  • Renaud Lebrun

  • Soonchan Saksiri

  • Jacques Michaux

  • Monique Vianey-Liaud

  • Laurent Marivaux

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