New publication: Modularity of the neck in birds

Traditionally, the neck of birds can be divided into three morphofunctional regions. To date, we lacked a quantitative test in a phylogenetically broad sample.

Birds vary significantly in the number and shape of vertebrae in the neck. Despite this variation, a similar regionalization along the neck of a diversity of avian species has been observed. Here, we quantitatively tested this hypothesis in a sample of phylogenetically diverse species using state-of-the-art 3D geometric morphometrics (Terray & Plateau et al. 2020 Evolutionary Biology).

Our results revealed seven modules that were found across the studied birds. Only the darter bird (Anhinga anhinga) has two different modules that are not present in the other species. It is a highly specialized bird that uses its double-S-shaped neck to hunt its prey. The hinge-like apparatus formed in the middle of its neck allows the quick catching of prey. Our study also showed that “shape trajectories” (i.e., the morphospace trajectory from the second to the last cervical vertebra) can be divided into two categories. Bird species that share the same shape trajectory are phylogenetically close and experience similar developmental and/or environmental factors.

Congratulations to Avineck students Léa Terray & Olivia Plateau and colleagues to this publication!


Terry L*, Plateau O*, Abourachid A, Böhmer C, Delapré A, de la Bernardie X and Cornette R (2020) Modularity of the neck in birds (Aves). Evolutionary Biology. DOI: 10.1007/s11692-020-09495-w.
(*Equal authorship)

Böhmer C, Plateau O, Cornette R and Abourachid A (2019). Correlated evolution of neck length and leg length in birds. Royal Society Open Science 6: 181588. DOI: 10.1098/rsos.181588.

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