Functional morphology of the cave bear (Ursus spelaeus) mandible: a 3D geometric morphometric analysis
The morphology of cephalic scales in Lacertids is organised in well defined geometrical structures. The variation of these elements is related to the underlying bone growth and morphogenesis, but it is also associated with the muscular system and the sutural dynamics. In this paper, the patterns of variation of the cephalic scales have been compared between three common Mediterranean species: Podarcis muralis, Podarcis sicula and Lacerta bilineata. The morphospace generated by the morphological relationships within the cephalic system in these three species is investigated in order to consider their degree of variation and their anatomical peculiarities. Generally, Lacerta is 64% larger than Podarcis, shows a relative reduction of the frontal scale, enlarged fronto-parietal structures, and stretched occipital area. L. bilineata shows the smaller degree of variation within the shape space, while P. muralis shows the highest values. The morphology of the two genera is definitely different mostly because of allometric variation. Non-allometric distinctions between the three species are subtle but detectable. The degree and pattern of variation are interpreted in terms of possible environmental pressures and of functional cranial dynamics associated with the fronto-parietal suture, respectively. In this sense, the structural relationships between bones and scales are of particular interest to further investigate ontogeny and phylogeny in reptiles.