Imperial College London


Faculty of Natural SciencesDepartment of Life Sciences (Silwood Park)

Reader in Biodiversity and Ecosystems



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KennedySilwood Park






BibTex format

author = {Felice, RN and Tobias, JA and Pigot, AL and Goswami, A},
doi = {10.1098/rspb.2018.2677},
journal = {Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences},
title = {Dietary niche and the evolution of cranial morphology in birds},
url = {},
volume = {286},
year = {2019}

RIS format (EndNote, RefMan)

AB - Cranial morphology in birds is thought to be shaped by adaptive evolution for foraging performance. This understanding of ecomorphological evolution is supported by observations of avian island radiations, such as Darwin’s finches, which display rapid evolution of skull shape in response to food resource availability and a strong fit between cranial phenotype and trophic ecology. However, a recent analysis of larger clades has suggested that diet is not necessarily a primary driver of cranial shape and that phylogeny and allometry are more significant factors in skull evolution. We use phenome-scale morphometric data across the breadth of extant bird diversity to test the influence of diet and foraging behaviour in shaping cranial evolution. We demonstrate that these trophic characters are significant but very weak predictors of cranial form at this scale. However, dietary groups exhibit significantly different rates of morphological evolution across multiple cranial regions. Granivores and nectarivores exhibit the highest rates of evolution in the face and cranial vault, whereas terrestrial carnivores evolve the slowest. The basisphenoid, occipital, and jaw joint regions have less extreme differences among dietary groups. These patterns demonstrate that dietary niche shapes the tempo and mode of phenotypic evolution in deep time, despite a weaker than expected form–function relationship across large clades.
AU - Felice,RN
AU - Tobias,JA
AU - Pigot,AL
AU - Goswami,A
DO - 10.1098/rspb.2018.2677
PY - 2019///
SN - 1471-2954
TI - Dietary niche and the evolution of cranial morphology in birds
T2 - Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
UR -
UR -
VL - 286
ER -