The cranial morphometrics of the wildfowl (Anatidae)

Abstract

Wildfowl (Anatidae) are a diverse group of birds and globally distributed. These birds feed by widely varying methods, there are generalist and specialist species. In a number of vertebrate taxa trophic specializations have led to distinct differences in the morphology of the skull, like in birds. Our knowledge and understanding of the relationship between cranial morphology and feeding mechanism of wildfowl are limited. The aim of this article is to increase our knowledge of the relationship between skull shape and foraging habits and find the identifiable attributes of the differently adapted groups. We used morphometric methods with 7 linear measurements of the skull. We used principal component (PC) analysis to identify the groups with different foraging habits. The PCs were related to measurements which represent the demanded muscle mass for feeding and the amount of capable food items. The grazers have a narrower bill and bigger bone surface which requires more muscle tissue than the broad billed filter-feeders. We observed the structural and functional differences between grazers and filter-feeders. There are no important differences in the bill measurements between omnivore dabbling and diving ducks. Only the bill is not enough to deduce the foraging habits.

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