Evolution of Appendicular Specializations for Fossoriality in Euryzygomatomyine Spiny Rats across Different Brazilian Biomes (Echimyidae, Hystricognathi, Rodentia)

  • William Corrêa TavaresEmail author
  • Jean Hickel Vozniak
  • Leila Maria Pessôa
Original Paper


The evolution of subterranean and fossorial rodents has been linked to the Neogene climatic shift to xeric conditions leading to open vegetation, like prairies and grasslands; most modern subterranean rodents occur in arid and open areas. Among South American spiny rats (family Echimyidae), the subfamily Euryzygomatomyinae includes both fossorial (Clyomys and Euryzygomatomys) and ambulatorial (Trinomys) genera, some of them endemic to open vegetated areas and other ones restricted to forested regions. The closely related genus Carterodon is also a fossorial rodent endemic to open vegetated areas. If the open environments constitute a determinant factor triggering the evolution of fossoriality in these spiny rats, it is expected that the fossorial lineages evolving since the Miocene in open environments (Carterodon sulcidens and Clyomys laticeps) show morphologies more specialized for digging than those currently restricted to Atlantic Forest habitats (Euryzygomatomys spinosus). Moreover, it is likely that Trinomys species specialized for xeric environments (T. albispinus and T. yonenagae) show incipient adaptations for fossoriality. The appendicular skeleton of three fossorial and five ambulatorial echimyid species were morphometrically analyzed with multivariate statistical approaches in order to test these presuppositions. The analyses showed that the appendicular morphology of T. yonenagae and T. albispinus, in comparison with the Atlantic Forest Trinomys species, and of C. sulcidens and C. laticeps in relation to E. spinosus are more adapted to scratch-digging activities, corroborating the hypothesis that open environments favor the evolution of fossoriality in spiny rats.


Atlantic Forest Caatinga Caviomorpha Cerrado Locomotor specializations Octodontoidea 



We are grateful to the curator J.A. Oliveira for allowing access to the mammalian collection of the Museu Nacional, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro. This work was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship to WCT provided by Fundação Carlos Chagas Filho de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro and Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior—FAPERJ/CAPES (Grant E26/202.171/15), and by a research fellowships to LMP provided by Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico—CNPq (Grant 308505/2016-6).

Supplementary material

10914_2019_9459_MOESM1_ESM.docx (15 kb)
Tables S1 P-values of pair-wise post-hoc Tukey test of ANOVA on overall size estimates. P-values <0.05 are shown in bold font. Eu.s: Euryzygomatomys spinosus; Cl.l: Clyomys laticeps; Ca.s: Carterodon sulcidens; Tr.e: Trinomys eliasi; Tr.y: Trinomys yonenagae; Tr.a: Trinomys albispinus; Tr.d: Trinomys dimidiatus; Tr.g: Trinomys gratiosus (DOCX 15 kb)
10914_2019_9459_MOESM2_ESM.docx (22 kb)
Tables S2 Classification matrixes from DFAsizes, DFAforelimb, DFAscapula and DFAhind limb. Rows show a priori classification and columns show a posteriori classification. Eu.s: Euryzygomatomys spinosus; Cl.l: Clyomys laticeps; Ca.s: Carterodon sulcidens; Tr.e: Trinomys eliasi; Tr.y: Trinomys yonenagae; Tr.a: Trinomys albispinus; Tr.d: Trinomys dimidiatus; Tr.g: Trinomys gratiosus (DOCX 22 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Campus Duque de Caxias, Universidade Federal do Rio de JaneiroRio de JaneiroBrazil
  2. 2.Laboratório de Mastozoologia, Departamento de Zoologia, Instituto de Biologia, CCSUniversidade Federal do Rio de JaneiroRio de JaneiroBrazil
  3. 3.Programa de Pós-Graduação em GenéticaUniversidade Federal do Rio de JaneiroRio de JaneiroBrazil
  4. 4.Programa de GenéticaInstituto Nacional de CâncerRio de JaneiroBrazil

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