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Keywords:

  • bite force;
  • bending strengths;
  • feeding behaviour;
  • Felids

Canine morphology is analysed at seven intervals along the crown in both anteroposterior and lateromedial perspective in seven species of large felids. The puma and the snow leopard have stout, rather conical canines, whereas those of lions, jaguars, and tigers bear substantial resemblance to each other, reflecting their phylogenetic relationships, and are less conical and large. The canines of the leopard are intermediate in morphology between those of the other species, probably reflecting its more generalized diet. The clouded leopard has very large and blade-like canines, which are different from the other analysed species. Canine bending strengths to estimated bite forces appear to differs less among the species than morphology, indicating that the evolution of canines has been constricted with respect to their strength in failure, probably owing to their being equally important for species fitness. However, the clouded leopard again stands out, having a high estimated bite force and rather weak canines in bending about the anteroposterior as well as lateromedial planes compared to the other species. Canine morphology to some extent reflects differences in killing mode, but also appears to be related to the phylogeny. The marked divergence of the clouded leopard is presently not understood. © 2007 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2007, 91, 573–592.