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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Cranial bone morphometric study among mouse strains

Minoru Kawakami and Ken-ichi Yamamura*

Author Affiliations

Division of Developmental Genetics, Institute of Molecular Embryology and Genetics, Kumamoto University, 2-2-1, Honjo, Kumamoto City, Kumamoto, 860-0811, Japan

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2008, 8:73  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-8-73

Published: 29 February 2008



Little is known about the molecular mechanism which regulates how the whole cranium is shaped. Mouse models currently available for genetic research include several hundreds of unique inbred strains and genetically engineered mutants.

By cross comparing their genomic structures, we can elucidate the cause of any differences in the phenotype between two strains. The craniometry of subspecies, or closely related species, of mice provide a good systemic model to study the relationship between genetic variance and cranial shape evolution. The lack of a quantified framework for comparing and analyzing mouse cranial shape has been a problem. For this reason, we performed quantitative analysis of cranial shape morphology between several mouse strains.


This article reports on a craniometric assay of seven mouse strains: four inbred strains (C57BL/6J, BALB/cA, C3H/HeJ, and CBA/JNCr) from Mus musculus domesticus (M. m. domesticus); one closed colony strain (ICR) from M. m. domesticus; one inbred strain (MSM/Ms) from Mus musculus molossinus; and, Mus spretus as a strain from a species other than M. m. domesticus. We performed linear measurements and geometric morphometrics. Geometric morphometrics revealed that the cranial characteristics of each strains were clearly distinguishable. We obtained mean scores for each species using the tpsRelw Program and plotted them.


Geometric morphometrics proved to be useful for identifying and classifying variations in form, and it revealed that M. spretus has a slender cranium when compared with our other strains. The mean cranial shape of C3H or CBA was more similar to MSM/Ms, which is derived from M. m. molossinus, than to either C57BL/6J, BALB, or ICR which are derived from M. m. domesticus. Future work in this field will aid in elucidating the mechanism of whole cranial shape regulation.