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Keywords:

  • manatee;
  • dugong;
  • Sirenia;
  • paleoecology

Abstract

Estimates of fossil sirenian body size are important for understanding niche partitioning among possibly sympatric species. Because of the paucity of complete fossil skeletons, we explored the utility of three morphometric predictors of body size: (condylobasal skull length [BSL]; occipital condyle width [OCW]; and foramen magnum width [FMW]) in extant sirenians—Florida manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris) and dugongs (Dugong dugon)—and then applied these to obtain estimates of body size in extinct sirenian taxa. Condylobasal length of the skull is a more accurate predictor of body size in extant Florida manatees and dugongs than are width of the occipital condyles or width of the foramen magnum. Body length (BL) is predicted more accurately than is body weight (BW) for all three morphometric predictors. For our sample of fossil sirenians, BSL, OCW, and FMW were used to generate predicted BLs and BWs. Preliminary assessments of fossil sirenian faunas from Florida and India suggest that body mass could have been one of several possible important morphological parameters accounting for feeding niche separation.