Evolution of the Carnassial in Living Mammalian Carnivores (Carnivora, Didelphimorphia, Dasyuromorphia): Diet, Phylogeny, and Allometry

  • Sergio D. TarquiniEmail author
  • M. Amelia Chemisquy
  • Francisco J. Prevosti
Original Paper


Different living mammals have developed a carnivorous habit (e.g., Carnivora, Dasyuridae, Thylacinidae, some Didelphidae). They exhibit different specializations for carnivory; however, they share some characters such as a carnassial molar. Previous studies have correlated the shape of molars with diet using morphometric indices or surface scans. In this work, we used 3D geometric morphometrics to explore the shape of the lower carnassials of 235 specimens corresponding to 71 extant species of Carnivora and six extant species of Marsupialia, both Didelphimorphia and Dasyuromorphia. We statistically estimated the effect of size, diet, and phylogeny on molar shape. All the analyses indicated a higher correlation between diet and molar shape, and a better correlation between molar shape and the position of each species on the phylogeny. Therefore, if we take into account the phylogenetic pattern, we can use molar morphology to infer diet of fossil species. Finally, this work evaluates for the first time, in a quantitative way, which of the lower molars of the Metatheria (m3 or m4) is the best analogue to the m1 of Carnivora; our results indicated the m4 is the best analogue.


Canonical phylogenetic ordination Diet classification Dietary proxies Evolutionary constraints Geometric morphometrics 



We thank D. Flores and P. Teta (MACN-ma) and I. Olivares (MLP-ma) for access to specimens under their care; J. Rajmil, C. Bustamante, W. Bustamante, and M. Mignana for replicas of molars deposited in foreign collections; S. Ladevèze, V. Krapovickas, A. Forasiepi, G. Cassini, C. Marsicano, and two anonymous reviewers for providing useful comments that helped improve the manuscript; E. Daneri Grosso and M. Macchioli for helping with the English version of the manuscript. This is a contribution to projects PICT-2015-0966 (F.P.).

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Sergio D. Tarquini
    • 1
    Email author
  • M. Amelia Chemisquy
    • 1
    • 2
  • Francisco J. Prevosti
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Centro Regional de Investigaciones Científicas y Transferencia Tecnológica de La Rioja (CRILAR – Provincia de La Rioja, UNLAR, SEGEMAR, UNCa, CONICET)AnillacoArgentina
  2. 2.Departamento de Ciencias Exactas, Fisicas y NaturalesUniversidad Nacional de la Rioja (UNLaR)La RiojaArgentina

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