• Walking on Kendall’s Shape Space: Understanding Shape Spaces and Their Coordinate Systems

      Klingenberg, Christian Peter; orcid: 0000-0002-8117-6141; email: cpk@manchester.ac.uk (Springer US, 2020-08-18)
      Abstract: More and more analyses of biological shapes are using the techniques of geometric morphometrics based on configurations of landmarks in two or three dimensions. A fundamental concept at the core of these analyses is Kendall’s shape space and local approximations to it by shape tangent spaces. Kendall’s shape space is complex because it is a curved surface and, for configurations with more than three landmarks, multidimensional. This paper uses the shape space for triangles, which is the surface of a sphere, to explore and visualize some properties of shape spaces and the respective tangent spaces. Considerations about the dimensionality of shape spaces are an important step in understanding them, and can offer a coordinate system that can translate between positions in the shape space and the corresponding landmark configurations and vice versa. By simulation studies “walking” along that are great circles around the shape space, each of them corresponding to the repeated application of a particular shape change, it is possible to grasp intuitively why shape spaces are curved and closed surfaces. From these considerations and the available information on shape spaces for configurations with more than three landmarks, the conclusion emerges that the approach using a tangent space approximation in general is valid for biological datasets. The quality of approximation depends on the scale of variation in the data, but existing analyses suggest this should be satisfactory to excellent in most empirical datasets.