Digging adaptation in insectivorous subterranean eutherians. The enigma of Mesoscalops montanensis unveiled by geometric morphometrics and finite element analysis

Paolo Piras*, Gabriele Sansalone, Luciano Teresi, Marco Moscato, Antonio Profico, Ronald Eng, Timothy C. Cox, Anna Loy, Paolo Colangelo, Tassos Kotsakis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The enigmatic Early Miocene fossorial mammal Mesoscalops montanensis shows one of the most modified humeri among terrestrial mammals. It has been suggested, on qualitative considerations, that this species has no extant homologues for humerus kinematics and that, functionally, the closest extant group is represented by Chrysochloridae. We combine here three dimensional geometric morphometrics, finite element analysis and phylogenetic comparative methods to explore the shape and mechanical stress states of Mesoscalops montanensis as well as of extant and extinct Talpidae and Chrysochloridae under realistic digging simulations. Evolutionary convergence analyses reveal that the shape of Mesoscalops montanensis represents a unique morphology in the context of fossorial mammals and that its functional performance, albeit superficially similar to that of extant Chrysochloridae, still represents a nonconvergent optimum for adaptation to digging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1157-1171
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of morphology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 9 Sept 2015


  • Biomechanical simulation
  • Chrysochloridae
  • Comparative methods
  • Functional morphology
  • Proscalopidae
  • Talpidae

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