Ontogeny and limb bone scaling in two new world marsupials, Monodelphis domestica and Didelphis virginiana

M. Maunz, R. Z. German

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


This study examines the growth of two species of marsupials who share common ancestry and are born at the same neonatal size of a little less than 1 g. Despite this similarity at birth, adult size of these two species differs by about 50 times, with the smaller species believed to be the more ancestral. We quantified the growth in the limb bones (humerus, femur, ulna, tibia, metacarpal, and metatarsal) beginning around 40 days of age until adult size was reached. Results indicate that the larger species grows at a higher rate of growth as well as for a longer period of time to reach its larger adult size. Despite these differences in growth, there were few differences observed in the scaling over time of length to width in the various limb bones that were measured. The two species, although different in their adult size and the patterns of growth, maintain the same length to width proportions in each limb bone. The biggest difference between species in scaling was observed in the bones of the hands and feet, which may suggest adaptation to size and/or locomotor performance as body size increases. Despite variation in size, these heterochronic patterns do not affect the shape among adults or over evolutionary time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-130
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Morphology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Developmental Biology
  • Anatomy


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