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High-density morphometric analysis of shape and integration: the good, the bad, and the not-really-a-problem

Goswami, A; Watanabe, A; Felice, RN; Bardua, C; Fabre, A-C; Polly, PD; (2019) High-density morphometric analysis of shape and integration: the good, the bad, and the not-really-a-problem. Integrative and Comparative Biology , 59 (3) pp. 669-683. 10.1093/icb/icz120. Green open access

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Abstract

The field of comparative morphology has entered a new phase with the rapid generation of high-resolution three-dimensional data. With freely available 3D data of thousands of species, methods for quantifying morphology that harness this rich phenotypic information are quickly emerging. Among these techniques, high-density geometric morphometric approaches provide a powerful and versatile framework to robustly characterize shape and phenotypic integration, the covariances among morphological traits. These methods are particularly useful for analyses of complex structures and across disparate taxa, which may share few landmarks of unambiguous homology. However, high-density geometric morphometrics also brings challenges, for example with statistical, but not biological, covariances imposed by placement and sliding of semilandmarks and registration methods such as Procrustes superimposition. Here, we present simulations and case studies of high-density datasets for squamates, birds, and caecilians that exemplify the promise and challenges of high-dimensional analyses of phenotypic integration and modularity. We assess: (1) the relative merits of "big" high-density geometric morphometrics data over traditional shape data; (2) the impact of Procrustes superimposition on analyses of integration and modularity; and (3) differences in patterns of integration between analyses using high-density geometric morphometrics and those using discrete landmarks. We demonstrate that for many skull regions 20-30 landmarks and/or semilandmarks are needed to accurately characterize their shape variation, and landmark-only analyses do a particularly poor job of capturing shape variation in vault and rostrum bones. Procrustes superimposition can mask modularity, especially when the number of landmarks is low and they covary in parallel directions, but this effect decreases with increasing landmark number or more biologically complex covariance patterns. Landmark-only and landmark-plus-sliding-semilandmark analyses of integration are generally congruent in overall pattern of integration, but landmark-only analyses tend to show higher integration between adjacent bones, especially when landmarks placed on the sutures between bones introduces a boundary bias. Allometry may be a stronger influence on patterns of integration in landmark-only analyses, which show stronger integration prior to removal of allometric effects compared to analyses including semilandmarks. High-density geometric morphometrics has its challenges and drawbacks, but our analyses of simulated and empirical datasets demonstrate that these potential issues are unlikely to obscure genuine biological signal. Rather, high-density geometric morphometric data exceeds traditional landmark-based methods in characterization of morphology and allow more nuanced comparisons across disparate taxa. Combined with the rapid increases in 3D data availability, high-density morphometric approaches have immense potential to propel a new class of studies of comparative morphology and phenotypic integration.

Type: Article
Title: High-density morphometric analysis of shape and integration: the good, the bad, and the not-really-a-problem
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1093/icb/icz120
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1093/icb/icz120
Language: English
Additional information: This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: modularity, integration, morphometrics, phenomics, Procrustes
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Cell and Developmental Biology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10077647
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