Postcanine dental form in the mustelidae and viverridae (Carnivora: Mammalia)



This study investigates whether the gross morphology of mustelid and viverrid postcanine dentitions corresponds with differences in diet. For each species, the predominant foods ingested are used to form predictions of dental form and measurements of the carnassial and molar teeth determine the extent of shearing and crushing surfaces on the postcanine teeth. Principal components analysis distinguishes species according to morphological differences in the dentition and these differences are compared with predictions of dental form based on diet. Dietarily specialized species are more likely to be correspondingly specialized in the dentition and species with varied food sources are more likely to possess dental characteristics that are generalized in function. Consumers of foods with high fracture resistance, such as vertebrate tissue and hard-surfaced invertebrates, possess specialized shearing or crushing postcanine teeth. On the other hand, species that consume foods of lesser fracture resistance, such as fruit and soft invertebrates, differ greatly in dental form and are more generalized in dental function. A few species possess postcanine dentitions that do not correspond with diet; the absence of dental–dietary correlation in these species suggests that other factors, such as phylogeny, are important in determining dental form. J. Morphol. 256:322–341, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.