Cranial Musculoskeletal Description of Black-Throated Finch (Aves: Passeriformes: Estrildidae) with DiceCT

K. H.T. To, H. D. O'brien, M. R. Stocker, P. M. Gignac

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Dietary requirements and acquisition strategies change throughout ontogeny across various clades of tetrapods, including birds. For example, birds hatch with combinations of various behavioral, physiological, and morphological factors that place them on an altricial-precocial spectrum. Passeriformes (=songbirds) in particular, a family constituting approximately more than half of known bird species, displays the most drastic difference between hatchling and adults in each of these aspects of their feeding biology. How the shift in dietary resource acquisition is managed during ontogeny alongside its relationship to the morphology of the feeding apparatus has been largely understudied within birds. Such efforts have been hampered partly due to the small size of many birds and the diminutive jaw musculature they employ. In this study, we used standard and diffusible iodine-based contrast-enhanced computed tomography in conjunction with digital dissection to quantify and describe the cranial musculature of the Black-throated Finch (Poephila cincta) at fledgling and adult stages. Our results reveal that in both the fledgling and the adult, cranial musculature shows clear and complex partitioning in the Musculus adductor mandibulae externus that is consistent with other families within Passeriformes. We quantified jaw-muscle sizes and found that the adult showed a decrease in muscle mass in comparison to the fledgling individual. We propose that this could be the result of low sample size or a physiological effect of parental care in Passeriformes. Our study shows that high-resolution visualization techniques are informative at revealing morphological discrepancies for studies that involve small specimens such as Passeriformes especially with careful specimen selection criteria.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberobab007
JournalIntegrative Organismal Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


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