Assessment of Character Variation in the Crania and Teeth of Modern Artiodactyls for Better Species Diagnosis in the Fossil Record
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Accurately distinguishing species in the fossil record is difficult when the extent of osteological variation in many modern animals is unknown. Research into intraspecific variation has been conducted in a number of groups, but has not been conducted for systematics use in most modern artiodactyls. In this dissertation I quantify intraspecific variation of teeth in 14 species of modern artiodactyl, then test how accurately cranial characters diagnose modern, sympatric species of duikers, and use this information to reassess the artiodactyl diversity of a fossil group: the superfamily Merycoidodontoidea in the John Day Fossil Beds. Ultimately, variation is not constant between orders or different size classes, is influenced by morphology, size, and dimorphism, and this variation should be incorporated into fossil diagnoses to avoid both overconfidence of diagnosis and under-recognition of possible intraspecific variation.