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Keywords:

  • Canines;
  • carnassials;
  • coefficient of variation;
  • diet;
  • skulls

Summary

  • 1
    We analysed patterns of variability and correlations in skulls and teeth of a wide (>100 species; >17 000 specimens) sample of terrestrial carnivores.
  • 2
    Within species, larger craniodental components vary less than do smaller ones.
  • 3
    The higher variability of canines in comparison with lower carnassials probably reflects the low complexity of the former.
  • 4
    Among species, however, trait variation is not size-related, suggesting that the higher intraspecific variability of small traits is not an artefact of measurement error.
  • 5
    Correlations between the carnassial teeth are higher in carnivores feeding mainly on vertebrates than in those that eat mostly invertebrates or fruit, suggesting that the degree of functional integration between these teeth is under differing selective pressures.
  • 6
    Correlations between the carnassials probably have a phylogenetic basis as well, with caniform carnivores having higher correlation coefficients than feliform ones.