Tissue vibrations in the larynx produce most sounds that comprise vocal communication in mammals. Larynx morphology is thus predicted to be a key target for selection, particularly in species with highly developed vocal communication systems. Here, we present a novel database of digitally modeled scanned larynges from 55 different mammalian species, representing a wide range of body sizes in the primate and carnivoran orders. Using phylogenetic comparative methods, we demonstrate that the primate larynx has evolved more rapidly than the carnivoran larynx, resulting in a pattern of larger size and increased deviation from expected allometry with body size. These results imply fundamental differences between primates and carnivorans in the balance of selective forces that constrain larynx size and highlight an evolutionary flexibility in primates that may help explain why we have developed complex and diverse uses of the vocal organ for communication.
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