Morphometrics in paleontology
Polly, P. David Department of Anatomy, Queen Mary and Westfield College, London, United Kingdom.
- Phylogenetic history
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
Morphometrics is the quantitative analysis of morphology. In paleontology, it is used to study evolution, systematics, and functional morphology. Although morphometrics can be as simple as distinguishing fossil samples based on shell heights, the term is usually applied to multivariate analysis involving tens or hundreds of variables. Morphometrics is most commonly used to differentiate among fossil species. However, it is also used to study rates of evolution, to distinguish between directional change and stasis, to determine the effects of environment on morphology, to measure modularity and morphological integration, to assess changes in morphological disparity, and to reconstruct phylogenetic history. Until the 1980s, most morphometric variables were trait measurements, such as the lengths and widths of bones or other structures. Recently, however, geometric morphometrics, which uses Cartesian coordinates (one of the most useful systems of coordinates for locating points in a given space by means of numerical quantities specified with respect to some frame of reference) of landmark or outline points instead of measurements, has come to predominate paleontology.
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