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Open Access Research article

Ontogenetic allometry of the Beagle

Daniela Helmsmüller1, Patrick Wefstaedt1, Ingo Nolte1 and Nadja Schilling2*

Author Affiliations

1 Small Animal Clinic, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation, Bünteweg 9, 30559 Hannover, Germany

2 Institute of Systematic Zoology and Evolutionary Biology, Friedrich-Schiller-University, Erbertstr. 1, 07743 Jena, Germany

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BMC Veterinary Research 2013, 9:203  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-9-203

Published: 10 October 2013

Abstract

Background

Mammalian juveniles undergo dramatic changes in body conformation during development. As one of the most common companion animals, the time line and trajectory of a dog’s development and its body’s re-proportioning is of particular scientific interest. Several ontogenetic studies have investigated the skeletal development in dogs, but none has paid heed to the scapula as a critical part of the mammalian forelimb. Its functional integration into the forelimb changed the correspondence between fore- and hindlimb segments and previous ontogenetic studies observed more similar growth patterns for functionally than serially homologous elements. In this study, the ontogenetic development of six Beagle siblings was monitored between 9 and 51 weeks of age to investigate their skeletal allometry and compare this with data from other lines, breeds and species.

Results

Body mass increased exponentially with time; log linear increase was observed up to the age of 15 weeks. Compared with body mass, withers and pelvic height as well as the lengths of the trunk, scapula, brachium and antebrachium, femur and crus exhibited positive allometry. Trunk circumference and pes showed negative allometry in all, pelvis and manus in most dogs. Thus, the typical mammalian intralimb re-proportioning with the proximal limb elements exhibiting positive allometry and the very distal ones showing negative allometry was observed. Relative lengths of the antebrachium, femur and crus increased, while those of the distal elements decreased.

Conclusions

Beagles are fully-grown regarding body height but not body mass at about one year of age. Particular attention should be paid to feeding and physical exertion during the first 15 weeks when they grow more intensively. Compared with its siblings, a puppy’s size at 9 weeks is a good indicator for its final size. Among siblings, growth duration may vary substantially and appears not to be related to the adult size. Within breeds, a longer time to physically mature is hypothesized for larger-bodied breeding lines. Similar to other mammals, the Beagle displayed nearly optimal intralimb proportions throughout development. Neither the forelimbs nor the hindlimbs conformed with the previously observed proximo-distal order of the limb segment’s growth gradients. Potential factors responsible for variations in the ontogenetic allometry of mammals need further evaluation.

Keywords:
Scaling; Limb proportions; Body proportions; Bone growth; Serial homology; Body mass