Dental Shape Variation and Phylogenetic Signal in the Rattini Tribe Species of Mainland Southeast Asia

A. Hulme-Beaman* (Corresponding Author), J. Claude, Y. Chaval, A. Evin, S. Morand, J. D. Vigne, K. Dobney, T. Cucchi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
14 Downloads (Pure)


The Rattini tribe comprises some of the most specious genera in the mammalian kingdom. Many of these species are also highly morphologically conserved. As a result, identifying Rattini tribe animals, particularly those of the Rattus genus, to species level is extremely difficult. Problems with identification of conservative morphologies, particularly of the skeleton, have led to difficulties in understanding the fossil remains and as a result the systematics of this group. Here, we apply geometric morphometrics to the first lower molar of 14 species of the Rattini tribe. We find that the morphological data present a strong phylogenetic signal. However, within Rattus, this signal is rather complex and possibly hints at rapid evolutionary shape and size changes. In modern species, it is possible to identify specimens to species level with a good degree of confidence. We find that using both size and shape together affords further confidence with identification. However, we caution against the over-reliance on size in environments with unknown species composition and climate, particularly in archaeological contexts. This approach should prove to be a useful tool for identifying fossil and sub-fossil remains, particularly where biomolecular markers are absent in circumstances of poor preservation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-446
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Mammalian Evolution
Issue number3
Early online date19 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019

Bibliographical note

We would like to thank Pierre-Henri Fabre for providing the phylogeny for this study. The collection of specimens used was funded by the French ANR Biodiversity, grant ANR 07 BDIV 012 CERoPath project (, and by the French ANR CP&ES, grant ANR 11 CPEL 002 BiodivHealthSEA project ( We also thank Madoudou Garba and Gauthier Dobigny (CBGP-IRD) for providing additional specimens. We greatly thank all local communities and their leaders for permission and invaluable help during field trapping. Special thanks to the CERoPath and BiodivHealthSEA teams and the drivers for their invaluable help during fieldwork. We would also like to thank Maeve McMahon for help with manuscript editing and preparation.


  • dental morphology
  • geometric morphometrics
  • identification
  • phylogenetic signal
  • Rattini tribe
  • Southeast Asia


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