Differential scaling of the long bones in the terrestrial carnivora and other mammals

J Morphol. 1990 May;204(2):157-69. doi: 10.1002/jmor.1052040205.


We measured the lengths and diameters of four long bones from 118 terrestrial carnivoran species using museum specimens. Though intrafamilial regressions scaled linearly, nearly all intraordinal regressions scaled non-linearly. The observed non-linear scaling of bone dimensions within this order results from a systematic decrease in intrafamilial allometric slope with increasing body size. A change in limb posture (more upright in larger species) to maintain similar peak bone stresses may allow the nearly isometric scaling of skeletal dimensions observed in smaller sized mammals (below about 100 kg). However, strong positive allometry is consistently observed in a number of large terrestrial mammals (the largest Carnivora, the large Bovidae, and the Ceratomorpha). This suggests that the capacity to compensate for size increases through alteration of limb posture is limited in extremely large-sized mammals, such that radical changes in bone shape are required to maintain similar levels of peak bone stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arm
  • Biometry
  • Bone and Bones / anatomy & histology*
  • Carnivora / anatomy & histology*
  • Female
  • Leg
  • Male
  • Mammals / anatomy & histology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Ruminants / anatomy & histology