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Scaling and functional morphology in strigiform hind limbs

Rayfield, Emily J.; Madan, Meena A.; Bright, Jen A.


Emily J. Rayfield

Meena A. Madan


Strigiformes are an order of raptorial birds consisting exclusively of owls: the Tytonidae (barn owls) and the Strigidae (true owls), united by a suite of adaptations aiding a keen predatory lifestyle, including
robust hind limb elements modified for grip strength. To assess variation in hind limb morphology, we analysed how the dimensions of the major hind limb elements in subfossil and modern species scaled with body mass. Comparing hind limb element length, midshaft width, and robusticity index (RI: ratio of midshaft width to maximum length) to body mass revealed that femoral and tibiotarsal width
scale with isometry, whilst length scales with negative allometry, and close to elastic similarity in the tibiotarsus. In contrast, tarsometatarsus width shows strong positive allometry with body mass, whilst length shows strong negative allometry. Furthermore, the tarsometatarsi RI scales allometrically to mass0.028, whilst a weak relationship exists in femora (mass0.004) and tibiotarsi (mass0.004). Our results suggest that tarsometatarsi play a more substantial functional role than tibiotarsi and femora. Given
the scaling relationship between tarsometatarsal width and robusticity to body mass, it may be possible to infer the body mass of prehistoric owls by analysing tarsometatarsi, an element that is
frequently preserved in the fossil record of owls.


Rayfield, E. J., Madan, M. A., & Bright, J. A. (2017). Scaling and functional morphology in strigiform hind limbs. Scientific reports, 7,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 3, 2017
Online Publication Date Mar 22, 2017
Publication Date 2017-04
Deposit Date Nov 28, 2019
Publicly Available Date Nov 30, -0001
Journal Scientific Reports
Print ISSN 2045-2322
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 7
Article Number 44920
Public URL
Additional Information Received: 28 June 2016; Accepted: 3 February 2017; First Online: 22 March 2017; : The authors declare no competing financial interests.


Madan Et Al. 2017 - Scaling And Functional Morphology In Strigiform Hind Limbs (873 Kb)

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© The Author(s) 2017

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