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Functional analysis of sabertooth cranial morphology

  • Sharon B. Emerson (a1) and Leonard Radinsky (a2)

Elongate canines evolved independently at least four times among mammalian carnivores, and each time skulls were modified in similar ways. We have compared the cranial morphology of sabertooths to that of their non-sabertoothed relatives, living and extinct, and applied simple biomechanical models to elucidate the functional significance of the morphological differences. Our analysis suggests that (1) sabertooth morphology represents modification for wider gape with retention of a powerful bite force at the carnassial; (2) sabertooths probably used a throat or ventral neck slash to kill prey; and (3) elongate canines and retractile claws may have facilitated the exploitation of relatively larger prey by sabertooths compared to non-sabertooth carnivores.

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  • ISSN: 0094-8373
  • EISSN: 1938-5331
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