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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Morphometry, geometry, function, and the future

Kieran P Mcnulty, Christopher J Vinyard
Anatomical Record: Advances in Integrative Anatomy and Evolutionary Biology 2015, 298 (1): 328-33
25339578
The proliferation of geometric morphometrics (GM) in biological anthropology and more broadly throughout the biological sciences has resulted in a multitude of studies that adopt landmark-based approaches for addressing a variety of questions in evolutionary morphology. In some cases, particularly in the realm of systematics, the fit between research question and analytical design is quite good. Functional-adaptive studies, however, do not readily conform to the methods available in the GM toolkit. The symposium organized by Terhune and Cooke entitled "Assessing function via shape: What is the place of GM in functional morphology?" held at the 2013 meetings of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists was designed specifically to explore this relationship between landmark-based methods and analyses of functional morphology, and the articles in this special issue, which stem in large part from this symposium, provide numerous examples of how the two approaches can complement and contrast each other. Here, we underscore some of the major difficulties in interpreting GM results within a functional regime. In combination with other contributions in this issue, we identify emerging areas of research that will help bridge the gap between multivariate morphometry and functional-adaptive analysis. Ultimately, neither geometric nor functional morphometric approaches is sufficient to elaborate the adaptive pathways that explain morphological evolution through natural selection. These perspectives must be further integrated with research from physiology, developmental biology, genomics, and ecology.

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