Scientific Reports (2021-05-01)

The ultimate database to (re)set the evolutionary history of primate genital bones

  • Federica Spani,
  • Maria Pia Morigi,
  • Matteo Bettuzzi,
  • Massimiliano Scalici,
  • Gabriele Gentile,
  • Monica Carosi

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 11, no. 1
pp. 1 – 15


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Abstract Scientific literature concerning genital bones in primates consists of both ancient works (dating back to the nineteenth century) and more recent revisions/meta-analyses, which, however, are not always so detailed or exhaustive. Based on a thorough analysis, several conflicting data, inaccurate references, and questionable claims have emerged. We generated a binary matrix of genital bone occurrence data, considering only data at the species level, based on (1) a rigorous literature search protocol, (2) raw data (collected exclusively from primary literature), (3) an updated taxonomy (often tracing back to the species taxonomic history) and (4) new occurrence data from scanned genitals of fresh and museum specimens (using micro-computed tomography-micro-CT). Thanks to this methodological approach, we almost doubled available occurrence data so far, avoiding any arbitrary extension of generic data to conspecific species. This practice, in fact, has been recently responsible for an overestimation of the occurrence data, definitively flattening the interspecific variability. We performed the ancestral state reconstruction analysis of genital bone occurrence and results were mapped onto the most updated phylogeny of primates. As for baculum, we definitively demonstrated its simplesiomorphy for the entire order. As for baubellum, we interpreted all scattered absences as losses, actually proposing (for the first time) a simplesiomorphic state for the clitoral bone as well. The occurrence data obtained, while indirectly confirming the baculum/baubellum homology (i.e., for each baubellum a baculum was invariably present), could also directly demonstrate an intra-specific variability affecting ossa genitalia occurrence. With our results, we established a radically improved and updated database about the occurrence of genital bones in primates, available for further comparative analyses.