We explored the morphological organization of the skull within Crocodylidae analyzing functional and phylogenetic interactions between its two constituent functional modules: the rostrum and the postrostrum. We used geometric morphometrics to identify localized shape changes, focusing on the differences between the major clades of the crown-group Crocodylia: Alligatoridae and Crocodylidae. We used published bite performance data to correlate rostral function with postrostral morphology. The skull modules appear more integrated within Alligatorida than within Crocodyliade. Phylogenetic effects on shape variation are more evident in Alligatoridae than in Crocodylidae, where functional parameters concerning the rostral morphology are proportionally more important than phylogeny. Long snouted species are characterized by low structural performance, which is significantly associated with a reduction of the pterygoid-quadrate cranial nipper, suggesting that the nipper is important to the ingestion of large food items in generalist species. This functional association is coupled with a significant evolutionary allometry at the clade level, while Alligatoridae and Crocodylidae show different degrees of evolutionary allometry for entire shape and rostrum. The postrostrum is more conservative than the rostrum in terms of morphospace occupation, evolutionary allometry and phylogenetic signal.
Piras P, Buscalioni A D, Teresi L, Raia P, Sansalone G, Kotsakis T, et al. (2014). Morphological integration and functional modularity in the crocodilian skull. INTEGRATIVE ZOOLOGY, 9, 498-516 [10.1111/1749-4877.12062].