ProjectUnderstanding Skull Biomechanics in the North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) as it Relates to Habitat.
Functional Morphology, the study of function as it relates to form, has been a crucial discipline for ecologists when considering speciation and biodiversity for a long time. More recently, as the world is undergoing a major habitat and biodiversity loss caused by anthropogenic activity, understanding the relationship between functional morphology and habitat has become vital to conservationists. This is mainly attributed to the fact that when considering the functional form of an organism, the focus is generally on specific traits that result in the improved survivability and fitness of the individual. Therefore, a better understanding of how different habitats shape functional attributes can improve our ability to forecast biodiversity in the future. Arguably the most culturally significant species to Canadians and many Indigenous peoples, the North American beaver (Castor canadensis) is also of major interest to ecologists. The beaver is a specialized rodent that has the unique ability to drastically alter an ecosystem by knocking down trees, building complex structures and flooding hectares of land. To achieve this, they have specialized functional traits including longer toes and powerful jaw muscles. Furthermore, their strong incisors and particular skull configuration are essential features for these tasks. Although the beaver has a very specific ecosystem function, they are found in a variety of forest habitats across North America. Due to the interconnectedness of functional traits and habitat, the wide distribution of the beaver suggests that forest type will have a drastic influence on the functional morphology of beavers. Using many morphological techniques, this can be assessed by comparing beaver skulls to their habitats.