Mammalian Biology

, Volume 78, Issue 3, pp 178–186 | Cite as

Comparative allometric investigations on the skulls of wild cavies (Cavia aperea) versus domesticated guinea pigs (C. aperea f. porcellus) with comments on the domestication of this species

  • Dieter C. T. KruskaEmail author
  • Katja Steffen
Original Investigation


Bivariate allometric calculations were performed to quantitatively compare skulls of wild cavies with domesticated guinea pigs. Descendents of wild caught Cavia aperea from eastern regions of the species’ distribution area were used, as well as unselected domesticated breeds of guinea pigs differing in outer appearance. The individuals of both groups were kept under similar environmental conditions. Altogether 19 parameters on the skulls and the body weights were used for the analyses. These parameters were studied in relation to greatest skull length and to body size. As a general result the diverse parameters are in most cases significantly different between both groups which is interpreted as a special result of unconsciously selected and genetically determined intraspecific changes concomitant with domestication. The skull does not change in total under the domestication process but in a mosaic manner. However, for the mosaic changes of the diverse parameters in relation to skull length a different picture is valid as related to body weight. This is caused by the fact that the skull of guinea pigs is around 5% shorter independent of the body size, a common effect of domestication also described for other species. Thus, skull length is not an appropriate parameter for body size with respect to such intraspecific investigations, although normally used for the characterization of species in interspecific comparisons of museum materials.

Altogether in relation to body weight most of the parameters describing the fascial portion of the skull are shorter in the guinea pig, especially the palatine, the diastema and the mandible but also the nasalia and frontalia lengths as well as the breadth of the rostrum and the zygomaticum are smaller. Most of the occipital skull measures are additionally smaller in the guinea pigs. This is clearly the case for the length and the breadth of the braincase and for the tympanic bulla. The braincase volume is 16.2% smaller, a value only slightly different when compared with the degree of brain size decrease due to domestication as reported for this species in other investigations.


Cavia aperea Cavia aperea f. porcellus Skull Intraspecific allometries Domestication 


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Copyright information

© Deutsche Gesellschaft für Säugetierkunde 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Zoological Institute, Christian-Albrechts-UniversityKielGermany

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