Jul 1, 2007

Deja vu: the evolution of feeding morphologies in the Carnivora

Integrative and Comparative Biology
Blaire Van Valkenburgh

Abstract

The fossil record of the order Carnivora extends back at least 60 million years and documents a remarkable history of adaptive radiation characterized by the repeated, independent evolution of similar feeding morphologies in distinct clades. Within the order, convergence is apparent in the iterative appearance of a variety of ecomorphs, including cat-like, hyena-like, and wolf-like hypercarnivores, as well as a variety of less carnivorous forms, such as foxes, raccoons, and ursids. The iteration of similar forms has multiple causes. First, there are a limited number of ways to ecologically partition the carnivore niche, and second, the material properties of animal tissues (muscle, skin, bone) have not changed over the Cenozoic. Consequently, similar craniodental adaptations for feeding on different proportions of animal versus plant tissues evolve repeatedly. The extent of convergence in craniodental form can be striking, affecting skull proportions and overall shape, as well as dental morphology. The tendency to evolve highly convergent ecomorphs is most apparent among feeding extremes, such as sabertooths and bone-crackers where performance requirements tend to be more acute. A survey of the fossil record indicates that larg...Continue Reading

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Citations

Mentioned in this Paper

Procyon lotor
Acclimatization
Science of Morphology
Animal Tissue, NOS
Transient Receptor Potential Cation Channel Subfamily V Member 6
Adaptation
Carnivory
Bone Structure of Cranium
Foxes
Carnivore

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