Island rule and bone metabolism in fossil murines from Timor

Justyna Miszkiewicz, Julien Louys, Robin Beck, Patrick Mahoney, Kenneth Aplin, Susan O'Connor

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Skeletal growth rates reconstructed from bone histology in extinct insular hippopotamids, elephants, bovids and sauropods have been used to infer dwarfism as a response to island conditions. Limited published records of osteocyte lacunae densities (Ot.Dn), a proxy for living osteocyte proliferation, have suggested a slower rate of bone metabolism in giant mammals. Here, we test whether insularity might have affected bone metabolism in a series of small to giant murine rodents from Timor. Ten adult femora were selected from a fossil assemblage dated to the Late Quaternary (~5000-18 000 years old). Femur morphometric data were used in computing phylogenetically informed body mass regressions, although the phylogenetic signal was very low (Pagel's ?=0.03). Estimates of body weight calculated from these femora ranged from 75 to 1188 g. Osteocyte lacunae densities from histological sections of the midshaft femur were evaluated against bone size and estimated body weight. Statistically significant (P < 0.05) and strongly negative relationships between Ot.Dn, femur size and estimated weight were found. Larger specimens were characterized by lower Ot.Dn, indicating that giant murines from Timor might have had a relatively slow pace of bone metabolic activity, consistent with predictions made by the island rule.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)570-586
    JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2020


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