Carnivore Behavior, Ecology, and Evolution

pp 410-436

Carnivore Dental Adaptations and Diet: A Study of Trophic Diversity within Guilds

  • Blaire Van Valkenburgh

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The order Carnivora includes a remarkable array of feeding types and dental morphologies, ranging from pure meat eaters with large cutting carnassial teeth to frugivores with broad crushing teeth. These very different dental forms have evolved from less specialized forms over the course of the Cenozoic, largely as a result of different functional regions of the tooth row being emphasized (Butler 1946; Savage 1977). More so than many other groups (e.g., artiodactyls, rodents), the carnivorans have retained a versatile dentition, with different teeth adapted for cutting meat, crushing bone, and grinding insects and fruits (Figure 15.1). This versatility has led to the evolution of divergent dental patterns and diets within the order, presumably largely as a result of competition for food.