Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 October 2021
Despite the paleontological relevance and paleobiological interest of trigoniid bivalves, our knowledge of their ontogeny—an aspect of crucial evolutionary importance—remains limited. Here, we assess the intra- and interspecific ontogenetic variations exhibited by the genus Steinmanella Crickmay (Myophorellidae: Steinmanellinae) during the early Valanginian–late Hauterivian of Argentina and explore some of their implications. The (ontogenetic) allometric trajectories of seven species recognized for this interval were estimated from longitudinal data using 3D geometric morphometrics, segmented regressions, and model selection tools, and then compared using trajectory analysis and allometric spaces. Our results show that within-species shell shape variation describes biphasic ontogenetic trajectories, decoupled from ontogenetic changes shown by sculpture, with a gradual decay in magnitude as ontogeny progresses. The modes of change characterizing each phase (crescentic growth and anteroposterior elongation, respectively) are conserved across species, thus representing a feature of Steinmanella ontogeny; its evolutionary origin is inferred to be a consequence of the rate modification and allometric repatterning of the ancestral ontogeny. Among species, trajectories are more variable during early ontogenetic stages, becoming increasingly conservative at later stages. Trajectories’ general orientation allows recognition of two stratigraphically consecutive groups of species, hinting at a potentially higher genus-level diversity in the studied interval. In terms of functional morphology, juveniles had a morphology more suited for active burrowing than adults, whose features are associated with a sedentary lifestyle. The characteristic disparity of trigoniids could be related to the existence of an ontogenetic period of greater shell malleability betrayed by the presence of crescentic shape change.