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Olfactory bulb size was measured in 146 species of Carnivora in order to examine whether recently observed functional patterns for overall brain size were similar for component parts of the brain. Comparative measures were analysed in relation to various allometric characters (body, brain and skull size), phylogeny, behaviour and ecology. Olfactory bulbs are significantly and positively correlated with all allometric variables, but indices of skull size correlate slightly more closely than other variables. This probably relates to functional aspects of skull size, facial proportions, and anterior elements of the brain. Phylogenetic associations were examined by two comparative methods: the method of independent contrasts and phylogenetic autoregression. Both revealed similar phylogenetic correlation at generic and familial levels. Using calculated values from either method, relative olfactory bulb size only correlates with zonation among seven behavioural and ecological variables; aquatic otters have smaller bulb sizes than carnivores of other zonal types. This agrees with discussion about the diminution of olfactory communication in aquatic environments. Also, olfactory bulb size correlates with home range size, which is consistent with a recent model on the use of olfaction for foraging in designated home ranges. Generally, comparative differences in olfactory bulb size in carnivores do not associate with functional variables found in other comparative studies. Nevertheless, future analyses of specific brain components in mammals may be more useful than overall brain size for testing evolutionary hypotheses of mammalian brain size.