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J Exp Biol. 2007 Feb;210(Pt 4):642-54.

Interspecific scaling of the morphology and posture of the limbs during the locomotion of cats (Felidae).

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cincinnati, PO Box 210006, Cincinnati, OH 45221-0006, USA.


For phylogenetically diverse mammals, ranging from small rodents to large ungulates, the generalization that limb erectness increases with increased size is supported by some size-dependent scaling relationships of appendicular skeletal anatomy as well as a limited number of direct observations of limb posture during locomotion. If size alone is the causal basis for different limb posture, then the erectness of limbs should increase significantly with increased size within a phylogenetically narrow lineage, but such data are sparse. Thus, to better establish the correlation between size and posture of mammalian limbs, we quantified the scaling relationships between mass and limb dimensions and kinematics during walking of nine species within the felid (cat) clade, which has qualitatively similar limb design. We studied the domestic cat, serval, ocelot, lynx, leopard, cheetah, cougar, lion and tiger, which had masses ranging from <4 kg to nearly 200 kg. Apart from variation associated with overall size, the lengths of the appendicular skeletal structures of most of the felid species were morphologically very similar in multivariate space. The kinematics of the limbs were also relatively uniform, and size had little predictive value for limb posture among felid species. Only three out of a total of 24 angular variables at footfall and midstance changed significantly (0.02<P<0.05) with increased mass. Thus, in contrast to previous broadly comparative studies of mammals, larger species of felids did not have more upright limbs than smaller species.

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