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J Morphol. 2009 Jun;270(6):729-44. doi: 10.1002/jmor.10712.

Forelimb indicators of prey-size preference in the Felidae.

Author information

1
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA. jmeachen@ucla.edu

Abstract

The forelimbs, along with the crania, are an essential part of the prey-killing apparatus in cats. Linear morphometrics of the forelimbs were used to determine the morphological differences between felids that specialize on large prey, small prey, or mixed prey. We also compared the scaling of felid forelimbs to those of canids to test whether prey capture strategies affect forelimb scaling. Results suggest that large prey specialists have relatively robust forelimbs when compared with smaller prey specialists. This includes relatively more robust humeri and radii, relatively larger distal ends of the humerus, and relatively larger articular areas of the humerus and radius. Large prey specialists also had relatively longer olecranon processes of the ulna and wider proximal paws. These characters are all important for subduing large prey while the cat positions itself for the killing bite. Small prey specialists have relatively longer distal limb elements for swift prey capture, and mixed prey specialists had intermediate values with relatively more robust metacarpals. Arboreal felids also had more robust limbs. They had relatively longer proximal phalanges for better grip while climbing, and a relatively short brachial index (radius to humerus ratio). Additionally, we found that felids and canids differ in forelimb scaling, which emphasizes the dual use of forelimbs for locomotion and prey capture in felids. This morphometric technique worked well to separate prey-size preference in felids, but did not work as well to separate locomotor groups, as scansorial and terrestrial felids were not clearly distinguished.

PMID:
19123240
DOI:
10.1002/jmor.10712
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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