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Data from: Effects of diet on cranial morphology and biting ability in musteloid mammals

Cite this dataset

Law, Chris J. et al. (2018). Data from: Effects of diet on cranial morphology and biting ability in musteloid mammals [Dataset]. Dryad.


Size and shape are often considered important variables that lead to variation in performance. In studies of feeding, size‐corrected metrics of the skull are often used as proxies of biting performance; however, few studies have examined the relationship between cranial shape in its entirety and estimated bite force across species and how dietary ecologies may affect these variables differently. Here, we used geometric morphometric and phylogenetic comparative approaches to examine relationships between cranial morphology and estimated bite force in the carnivoran clade Musteloidea. We found a strong relationship between cranial size and estimated bite force but did not find a significant relationship between cranial shape and size‐corrected estimated bite force. Many‐to‐one mapping of form to function may explain this pattern because a variety of evolutionary shape changes rather than a single shape change may have contributed to an increase in relative biting ability. We also found that dietary ecologies influenced cranial shape evolution but did not influence cranial size nor size‐corrected bite force evolution. Although musteloids with different diets exhibit variation in cranial shapes, they have similar estimated bite forces suggesting that other feeding performance metrics and potentially nonfeeding traits are also important contributors to cranial evolution. We postulate that axial and appendicular adaptations and the interesting feeding behaviours reported for species within this group also facilitate different dietary ecologies between species. Future work integrating cranial, axial and appendicular form and function with behavioural observations will reveal further insights into the evolution of dietary ecologies and other ecological variables.

Usage notes


National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-1700989