• Mammalia;
  • molar morphology;
  • carnivorous diet;
  • homoplasy;
  • phylogeny

The molar morphology and structure of seven groups of flesh-eating mammals (Deltatheroida, Borhyaenoidea, Stagodontidae, Dasyuroidea, Creodonta, Carnivora, and Prionogale) are compared. The dental adaptations to carnivorous diet are remarkably similar in the seven groups. Derived taxa within these groups all possess a postvallum-prevallid shearing with a reduction of the paracone relative to the metacone (except in the Deltatheroida), a large postmetacrista, a reduced stylar shelf, a reduced protocone, a large blade-like paraconid and a reduced metaconid and talonid. The constancy of these features (regarded as a single functional complex) and of their evolutionary pattern in phylogenetically distant groups, is evidence of their high potential for homoplasy. Therefore these character states should be used with extreme care in reconstructing phylogeny and, when possible, associated to cranial features. Several phylogenetic interpretations using them are discussed, some of which are regarded as poorly supported.