Combining Geometric Morphometric Analyses of Multiple 2D Observation Views Improves Interpretation of Evolutionary Allometry and Shape Diversification in Monitor Lizard (Varanus) Crania


Natural Sciences

Document Type


Publication Source

Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. Volume 120, Issue 3, 539-552.

Publication Date



Geometric morphometrics is a powerful tool for the quantification, visualization and analysis of morphological variation and change. This approach is being applied more frequently in a phylogenetic comparative context to assess the relative influence of size, ecology, function, and developmental constraints on morphological evolution. Geometric morphometric methods rely on homologous landmarks as the source of shape data, and the level of detail and accuracy increases with the amount of information contained in a landmark configuration. It may be possible, however, to capture particular elements of shape variation by concentrating on different observation angles of a complex structure like the vertebrate cranium. Our study examines how observation view (dorsal, ventral and lateral) influences 2D geometric morphometric analysis of interspecific cranial shape variation in monitor lizards. We recover a strong phylogenetic signal in all three views and general concordance in patterns of size‐corrected shape diversification within the genus. We also find subtle, but important differences, however, among views in analyses of evolutionary allometry and shape variation, which may reflect both landmark configuration design and adaptive functional trends of the study system. Our study shows that studies restricted to a 2D geometric morphometric analysis of a complex 3D biological structure can combine carefully designed 2D landmark configurations describing alternative planes to maximize shape coverage.