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Furcula in Mesozoic birds

From: Ben Creisler

New in PLoS ONE:

Roger A. Close & Emily J. Rayfield (2012)
Functional Morphometric Analysis of the Furcula in Mesozoic Birds.
PLoS ONE 7(5): e36664.

The furcula displays enormous morphological and structural diversity.
Acting as an important origin for flight muscles involved in the
downstroke, the form of this element has been shown to vary with
flight mode. This study seeks to clarify the strength of this
form-function relationship through the use of eigenshape morphometric
analysis coupled with recently developed phylogenetic comparative
methods (PCMs), including phylogenetic Flexible Discriminant Analysis
(pFDA). Additionally, the morphospace derived from the furculae of
extant birds is used to shed light on possible flight adaptations of
Mesozoic fossil taxa. While broad conclusions of earlier work are
supported (U-shaped furculae are associated with soaring, strong
anteroposterior curvature with wing-propelled diving), correlations
between form and function do not appear to be so clear-cut, likely due
to the significantly larger dataset and wider spectrum of flight modes
sampled here. Interclavicular angle is an even more powerful
discriminator of flight mode than curvature, and is positively
correlated with body size. With the exception of the close relatives
of modern birds, the ornithuromorphs, Mesozoic taxa tend to occupy
unique regions of morphospace, and thus may have either evolved
unfamiliar flight styles or have arrived at similar styles through
divergent musculoskeletal configurations.