Brown University2014-07-08 9:40 PM

Forelimb anatomy and the discrimination of the predatory behavior of carnivorous mammals: The thylacine as a case study

ABSTRACT
Carnivorous mammals use their forelimbs in different ways to capture their prey. Most terrestrial carnivores have some cursorial (running) adaptations, but ambush predators retain considerable flexibility in their forelimb movement, important for grappling with their prey. In contrast, predators that rely on pursuit to run down their prey have sacrificed some of this flexibility for locomotor efficiency, in the greater restriction of the forelimb motion to the parasagittal plane. In this article, we measured aspects of the forelimb anatomy (44 linear measurements) in 36 species of carnivorous mammals of known predatory behavior, and used multivariate analyses to investigate how well the forelimb anatomy reflects the predatory mode (ambush, pursuit, or pounce-pursuit). A prime intention of this study was to establish morphological correlates of behavior that could then be applied to fossil mammals: for this purpose, five individuals of the recently extinct thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus) were also included as unknowns. We show that the three different types of predators can be distinguished by their morphology, both in analyses where all the forelimb bones are included together, and in the separate analyses of each bone individually. Of particular interest is the ability to distinguish between the two types of more cursorial predators, pursuit and pounce-pursuit, which have previously been considered as primarily size-based categories. Despite a prior consideration of the thylacine as a “pounce-pursuit” or an “ambush” type of predator, the thylacines did not consistently cluster with any type of predatory carnivores in our analyses. Rather, the thylacines appeared to be more generalized in their morphology than any of the extant carnivores. The absence of a large diversity of large carnivorous mammals in Australia, past and present, may explain the thylacine's generalized morphology. J. Morphol., 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords:
carnivores;thylacine;forelimb anatomy;predatory behavior;locomotion
Full Article:
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jmor.20303/abstract

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