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Mitteroecker Philipp | Fellow Postdoctoral
2007-05-01 - 2009-04-30 | Research area: EvoDevo
Modularity and Morphological Integration in the Hominoid Cranium
There is a wide agreement that modularity is a prerequisite for the hierarchical phenotypic organization of higher organisms as well as for the appearance of complex adaptations. While studies of modularity are often experimental, morphological integration is a more descriptive concept whereby groups of correlated phenotypic characters are often interpreted as modules. I will show that the classic assumption of morphological integration (high correlations within modules, lower correlations between modules) is met only for the unrealistic case of nearly isometric growth factors and discuss the consequences for the morphometric assessment of modularity. My focus will be on the empirical analysis of modularity and integration in the hominoid cranium. I compare postnatal ontogenetic trajectories of humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas by a geometric morphometric approach and draw conclusions about regional dissociation during development and evolution. Additionally, I describe conserved modes of shape variation that integrate facial and neurocranial morphology among the investigated taxa. I will discuss possible phylogenetic conclusions and how such morphometric findings may be interpreted in the light of contemporary evo-devo theory.