Predicting carnivoran body mass from a weight-bearing joint


All correspondence to: Swedish Museum of Natural History, Department of Paleozoology, Box 50007, SE-104 05 Stockholm, Sweden. E-mail:


Predictors used to calculate the body mass of extinct carnivorans often scale differently between different taxa, thus yielding body mass estimates that diverge considerably depending on which predictive equation is used. This requires the investigator to choose the ones most suitable, a procedure that is best avoided if possible. The carnivoran elbow joint is here explored with the aim of producing a single general body mass predictor that can be used over a broad range of terrestrial and arboreal carnivorans. The circumference of the distal humerus trochlea is found to be highly correlated with body mass, and trochlea circumference seems to scale similarly throughout the order Carnivora. This scaling is not as theoretically predicted by elastic similarity and is slightly higher than that predicted by geometric similarity, indicating a slight positive allometry for the latter. Some degree of differential scaling between carnivoran families and between animals of large and small size cannot be ruled out, but this result is inconclusive. A predictive model that allows mass estimations for a broad range of carnivorans is presented (a=0.601; b=2.552; r2=0.952, see=0.136, P<0001, n=92). Body mass for eight extinct carnivoran species are calculated and these generally conform to earlier mass predictions.