Evolution of skull shape in carnivores: 2. Additional modern carnivores



Fifteen functionally significant aspects of skull morphology were measured on skulls of 36 additional species of carnivores to complete a survey of skull shape in modern fissiped (land) carnivores that includes most of the living genera. The measurements were transformed to dimensionless variables based on the residuals from allometric equations, and were analysed singly and in a 10 variable principal components analysis. An initial study of 62 species of viverrids, canids, mustelids and felids had shown those families to be distinguished from each other by the functionally significant measurements. However, among the additional 36 species, some procyonids, ursids and mustelids display a range of diversity of skull morphology that overlaps that of the other families and diminishes the potential value of the measurements as taxonomic characters. Intraspecific variation is presented for 12 species, and is low enough to allow use of some features as species level diagnostic characters. The lack of correlation between diet and functionally significant aspects of skull morphology among omnivorous carnivores, and the absence of certain skull shapes among carnivores are discussed.