Data from: Craniodental indicators of prey size preference in the Felidae
Meachen-Samuels, Julie; Van Valkenburgh, Blaire (2011), Data from: Craniodental indicators of prey size preference in the Felidae, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.6h722
In the present study, we used linear morphometrics of the crania, mandible and dentition to explore the association
between craniodental shape and prey size among 35 species of living felids. To accomplish this, felids were divided
into three prey-size groups: (1) large prey specialists; (2) small prey specialists; and (3) mixed prey feeders. From
these linear measurements, large prey specialist felids can be distinguished from small and mixed prey feeders by
their relatively robust canines and incisors and relatively wide muzzles. These cranial characters are advantageous
when dispatching large prey, due to the stranglehold that cats employ during this activity. Robust canines resist
the bending and torsional forces applied by struggling prey and a wider muzzle helps to stabilize grip and
distribute bite forces more evenly during the killing bite. Small prey specialists had smaller canines, narrower
muzzles and slightly longer jaws for a speed advantage when catching small, quick prey. Mixed prey feeders were
intermediate between large and small prey specialists, indicating they are adapted to killing both sizes of prey.
Given the success of this ecomorphological analysis of living felids that specialize on different prey sizes, we look
forward to applying this same approach to extinct species.