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Keywords:

  • Canidae;
  • Carnivora;
  • dental formulae;
  • dental morphology;
  • evolvability;
  • inhibitory cascade

Abstract

Developmental origins that guide the evolution of dental morphology and dental formulae are fundamental subjects in mammalian evolution. In a previous study, a developmental model termed the inhibitory cascade model was established. This model could explain variations in relative molar sizes and loss of the lower third molars, which sometimes reflect diet, in murine rodents and other mammals. Here, I investigated the pattern of relative molar sizes (inhibitory cascade pattern) in canids, a taxon exhibiting a wide range of dietary habits. I found that interspecific variation in canid molars suggests a unique inhibitory cascade pattern that differs from that in murine rodents and other previously reported mammals, and that this variation reflects dietary habits. This unique variability in molars was also observed in individual variation in canid species. According to these observations, canid species have greater variability in the relative sizes of first molars (carnassials), which are functionally important for dietary adaptation in the Carnivora. In conclusion, an inhibitory cascade that differs from that in murine rodents and other mammals may have contributed to diverse dietary patterns and to their parallel evolution in canids.