Patterns of integration in the canine skull: an inside view into the relationship of the skull modules of domestic dogs and wolves
Abstract The skull shape variation in domestic dogs exceeds that of grey wolves by far. The artificial selection of dogs has even led to breeds with mismatching upper and lower jaws and maloccluded teeth. For that reason, it has been advocated that their skulls (including the teeth) can be divided into more or less independent modules on the basis of genetics, development or function. In this study, we investigated whether the large diversity of dog skulls and the frequent occurrence of orofacial disproportions can be explained by a lower integration strength between the modules of the skull and by deviations in their covariation pattern when compared to wolves. For that purpose, we employed geometric morphometric methods on the basis of 99 3D-landmarks representing the cranium (subdivided into rostrum and braincase), the mandible (subdivided into ramus and corpus), and the upper and lower tooth rows. These were taken from CT images of 196 dog and wolf skulls. First, we calculated the shape disparity of the mandible and the cranium in dogs and wolves. Then we tested whether the integration strength (measured by RV coefficient) and the covariation pattern (as analysed by partial least squares analysis) of the modules subordinate to the cranium and the mandible can explain differing disparity results. We show, contrary to our expectations, that the higher skull shape diversity in dogs is not explained by less integrated skull modules. Also, the pattern of their covariation in the dog skull can be traced back to similar patterns in the wolf. This shows that existing differences between wolves and dogs are at the utmost a matter of degree and not absolute. Highlights Skull module integration patterns in domestic dogs and wolves were tested. The disparity of the cranium and the mandible is larger in dogs than in wolves. Dog skulls and mandibles are not more weakly integrated than those of wolves. Ancestral skull integration patterns are conserved in domestic dogs.
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