Variation in Craniomandibular Morphology and Sexual Dimorphism in Pantherines and the Sabercat Smilodon fatalisReport as inadecuate




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Sexual dimorphism is widespread among carnivorans, and has been an important evolutionary factor in social ecology. However, its presence in sabertoothed felids remains contentious. Here we present a comprehensive analysis of extant Panthera and the sabertoothed felid Smilodon fatalis. S. fatalis has been reported to show little or no sexual dimorphism but to have been intraspecifically variable in skull morphology. We found that large and small specimens of S. fatalis could be assigned to male and female sexes with similar degrees of confidence as Panthera based on craniomandibular shape. P. uncia is much less craniomandibularly variable and has low levels of sexual size-dimorphism. Shape variation in S. fatalis probably reflects sexual differences. Craniomandibular size-dimorphism is lower in S. fatalis than in Panthera except P. uncia. Sexual dimorphism in felids is related to more than overall size, and S. fatalis and the four large Panthera species show marked and similar craniomandibular and dental morphometric sexual dimorphism, whereas morphometric dimorphism in P. uncia is less. Many morphometric-sexually dimorphic characters in Panthera and Smilodon are related to bite strength and presumably to killing ecology. This suggests that morphometric sexual dimorphism is an evolutionary adaptation to intraspecific resource partitioning, since large males with thicker upper canines and stronger bite forces would be able to hunt larger prey than females, which is corroborated by feeding ecology in P. leo. Sexual dimorphism indicates that S. fatalis could have been social, but it is unlikely that it lived in fusion-fission units dominated by one or a few males, as in sub-Saharan populations of P. leo. Instead, S. fatalis could have been solitary and polygynous, as most extant felids, or it may have lived in unisexual groups, as is common in P. leo persica.



Author: Per Christiansen , John M. Harris

Source: http://plos.srce.hr/



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