The placental mammal order Carnivora is an ideal group for examination of macroevolutionary patterns. They are exceptionally diverse in ecology and morphology, have an exceptional fossil record, and are well studied in phylogeny, development, and genetics. We have used Carnivora as a model group for extensive analyses of morphological integration and modularity, functional morphology, macroevolutionary patterns, adaptive radiations, and numerous other topics. We currently have a Leverhulme Trust research grant to study the evolutionary modularity and biomechanics of the cat vertebral column, incorporating morphometrics, comparative anatomy, and modelling to understand how cats maintain locomotory flexibility at large body sizes.
Walking the Cat Back: Evolutionary Modularity & Mechanics of the Felid Skeleton
In this Leverhulme Trust funded project, Team Cat is studying the evolution of cat locomotion by unifying three disparate fields of analysis. First, we are conducting dissections and biomechanical analyses of cat postcrania, representing the full breadth of cat ecology and size to identify the biomechanical consequences of large body size in cats and the effect of any changes in postcranial muscles and bone shape on cat locomotion. Second, we are using 3D geometric morphometrics to identify postcranial changes that are associated with increasing size, as well as changes that relate to other factors, such as habitat, prey preference, or killing behaviour. As previous studies have shown that large cats have relatively more robust limbs for their size, this data will allow us to test if the entire skeleton shows a similar pattern, or if different parts of the skeleton are modified in other ways to allow for the unusual locomotor style observed in cats. Third, we are analysing the evolutionary relationships among the different parts of the postcranial skeleton with measurement and developmental data. Functional, genetic, and developmental links between the front of the postcranial skeleton (the forelimbs, pectoral girdle, and anterior vertebral column), and the back of the skeleton exist, but previous studies have shown that these links can be broken in species with unusual reproductive strategies (such as marsupials) or unusual locomotor styles (such as bats). We will test whether the links across the different elements have been modified from the ancestral placental mammal pattern in order to allow the cats to maintain their crouching posture at large sizes. We will also be able to combine these data with our biomechanical analyses to test if parts of the skeleton that show similar responses to mechanical stress also show stronger evolutionary correlations than parts that don’t respond similarly. Our results already demonstrate that cat body size has a complex evolutionary history, and that the postcranial muscles do not scale sufficiently with size, meaning that large cats are relatively weaker than small cats. Our shape analyses show that the vertebral column of cats is also more complex than thought, with the anterior portion showing strong phylogenetic signal, while the posterior half shows stronger ecological signal.
Link to downloadable 3D pdf of dissected tiger forelimb (save and open in pdf viewer)
Link to downloadable 3D pdf of dissected lion hind limb (save and open in pdf viewer)
AR Cuff, EL Sparkes, M Randau, SE Pierce, AC Kitchener, A Goswami*, and J.Hutchinson*. 2016. The scaling of postcranial muscles in cats (Felidae) I: forelimb, cervical, and thoracic muscles. Journal of Anatomy, 229: 128-141. *co-senior authors
AR Cuff, EL Sparkes, M Randau, SE Pierce, AC Kitchener, A Goswami*, and J.Hutchinson*. 2016. The scaling of postcranial muscles in cats (Felidae) II: hindlimb and lumbosacral muscles. Journal of Anatomy, 229: 142-152. *co-senior authors
M Randau, A Goswami, JR Hutchinson, AR Cuff, SE Pierce. 2016. Cryptic complexity in felid vertebral evolution: shape differentiation and allometry of the axial skeleton. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 178: 183-202.
M. Dumont, C.E. Wall, A. Goswami, S. Peigné, and A.C. Fabre. 2015. Do functional demands associated with locomotor habitat, diet, and activity pattern drive skull shape evolution in musteloid carnivorans? Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 117,858–878.
A. Cuff, M. Randau, J. Head, J.R. Hutchinson, S.E. Pierce, and A. Goswami. 2015. Big cat, small cat: Reconstructing body size evolution in living and extinct Felidae. Journal of Evolutionary Biology (online early).
A. Goswami, W. Binder, J. Meachen, and F.R. O'Keefe. 2015. The fossil record of phenotypic integration and modularity: A deep-time perspective on developmental and evolutionary dynamics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 112: 4891-4896.
K.E. Jones, J. B. Smaers, and A. Goswami. 2015. Impact of the Terrestrial-Aquatic Transition on Disparity and Rates of Evolution in the Carnivoran Skull. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 15 (1): 8.
A.-C. Fabre, R. Cornette, A. Goswami, and S. Peigné. 2015. Do constraints associated with the locomotor habitat drive the evolution of forelimb shape? A case study in musteloid carnivorans. Journal of Anatomy, 226: 596-610.
A.-C. Fabre, A. Goswami, S. Peigné, and R. Cornette. 2014. Morphological integration in the forelimb of musteloid carnivorans. Journal of Anatomy, 225:19-30.
P.D. Polly, A.M. Lawing, A.-C. Fabre, A. Goswami. 2013. Phylogenetic Principal Components Analysis and Geometric Morphometrics. Hystrix, the Italian Journal of Mammalogy, 24, 1: 9
A. Goswami, L. Foley, V. Weisbecker, V. 2013. Patterns and implications of extensive heterochrony in carnivoran cranial suture closure. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 26, 6: 1294- 1306.
A.-C. Fabre, R. Cornette, S. Peigné, A. Goswami. 2013. Influence of body mass on the shape of forelimb in musteloid carnivorans. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 110: 91-103
J.A. Finarelli and A. Goswami. 2013. Potential pitfalls of reconstructing deep time evolutionary history with only extant data, a case study using the Canidae (Mammalia, Carnivora). Evolution, 67: 3678-3685.
A.-C. Fabre, R. Cornette, G. Slater, C. Argot, S. Peigné, A. Goswami, E. Pouydebat. 2013. Getting a grip on the evolution of grasping in musteloid carnivorans: a three‐dimensional analysis of forelimb shape. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 26: 1521-1535.
K.E. Jones, C.B. Ruff, A. Goswami. 2013. Morphology and biomechanics of the pinniped jaw: mandibular evolution without mastication. The Anatomical Record, 296: 1049-1063.
J.B.Smaers, D.K.N. Dechmann, A. Goswami, C. Soligo, K. Safi. 2012. Comparative analyses of evolutionary rates reveals different pathways to encephalization in bats, carnivorans, and primates. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of USA, 109: 18006-18011.
A. Goswami, N. Milne, and S. Wroe. 2011. Biting through constraints: cranial morphology, disparity, and convergence across living and fossil carnivorous mammals. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, Biological Sciences, 278: 1831-1839. Supplementary Files.
L. McInnes, W. Baker, T. Barraclough, K. Dasmahapatra, A. Goswami, L.J. Harmon, H. Morlon, A. Purvis, J. Rosindell, G.H. Thomas, S.T. Turvey, and A.B. Phillimore. 2011. Integrating ecology into macroevolutionary research. Biology Letters, 7:644-646.
K. Jones and A. Goswami. 2010. Quantitative analysis of phylogenetic and ecological influences on otariid and phocid pinniped (Mammalia; Carnivora) cranial morphology. Journal of Zoology, 280: 297-308.
A. Goswami and P.D. Polly. 2010. The influence of modularity on cranial morphological disparity in Carnivora and Primates (Mammalia). PLoSOne, 5(3):e9517.
A. Goswami and A. Friscia (eds.). 2010. Carnivoran Evolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 513pp.
K. Jones and A. Goswami. 2010. Morphometric analysis of cranial shape in pinnipeds (Mammalia, Carnivora): convergence, ecology, ontogeny, and dimorphism. In Carnivoran Evolution: New Views on Phylogeny, Form, and Function (A. Goswami and A. Friscia, eds.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 342-373.
A. Goswami and P.D. Polly. 2010. The influence of character correlations of phylogenetic analyses: a case study of the carnivoran cranium. In Carnivoran Evolution: New Views on Phylogeny, Form, and Function (A. Goswami and A. Friscia, eds.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 141-164.
A. Goswami. 2010. Introduction to carnivoran evolution. In Carnivoran Evolution: New Views on Phylogeny, Form, and Function (A. Goswami and A. Friscia, eds.). Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-24.
J. Finarelli and A. Goswami. 2009. The evolution of orbit orientation and encephalization in the Carnivora (Mammalia). Journal of Anatomy, 214: 671-678.
A. Goswami. 2008. Carnivoran Evolution. McGraw-Hill Yearbook of Science and Technology 2008.
K.E. Sears, A. Goswami, J. J. Flynn, and L. Niswander. 2007. The correlated evolution of Runx2 tandem repeats and facial length in Carnivora. Evolution and Development, 9(6): 555-565.
A. Goswami. 2006. Morphological integration in the carnivoran skull. Evolution, 60: 122-136.
A. Goswami. 2006. Cranial modularity shifts during mammalian evolution. American Naturalist, 168:170-180.