Skull shape evolution in durophagous carnivorans

Evolution. 2013 Jul;67(7):1975-93. doi: 10.1111/evo.12059. Epub 2013 Feb 15.


In this article, we investigate convergent evolution toward durophagy in carnivoran skull shape using geometric morphometrics in a sample of living and extinct species. Principal components analysis indicate that, in spite of the different dietary resources consumed by durophages-that is, bone-crackers and bamboo-feeders-both groups of carnivorans share portions of skull phenotypic spaces. We identify by discriminant analyses a shared set of adaptations toward durophagy in the skull of carnivores. However, ancestral states indicate that although durophages reached similar phenotypes, the evolutionary pathways that they followed are different depending upon the family to which they belong. Furthermore, while the carnivoran cranium more closely reflects the nature of the resources consumed-that is, soft or hard and tough items-the mandible shows particular feeding adaptations-that is, bamboo or bone. This finding supports the interpretation that the mandible has more evolutionary plasticity than the cranium, which is more limited to evolve toward a particular feeding adaptation. However, we find that the shapes of the cranium and the mandible are highly integrated for the whole order Carnivora. Published studies of teratological cats and dogs indicate that the role of internal constraints in shaping this pattern of integration is absent or weak and malleable by selection.

Keywords: Carnivore; durophagy; evolutionary convergence; morphometrics; phenotype.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Carnivora / anatomy & histology*
  • Carnivora / classification
  • Carnivora / genetics*
  • Fossils
  • Mandible / anatomy & histology
  • Phylogeny
  • Skull / anatomy & histology*