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Picture of the Day

Carnivora skull shape depends on more than just diet

It turns out, you're not what you eat -- at least, if you're a mammal belonging to the order Carnivora. New research has found that for this group of mammals -- which includes species as varied as raccoons, pandas and elephant seals -- nondietary factors can be just as important, if not more so, in determining skull form and function. In the study, data from more than 50 living species was used to create shape and biomechanical models representing a wide range of diets, from exclusive carnivores like lions to herbivores like pandas and omnivores like raccoons. The models allowed researchers to examine how skull size, shape and bite performance varied when compared to nondietary factors such as habitat, life expectancy and movement, among others. Results showed that not only did nondietary factors influence skull shape and bite, but that variables such as age at sexual maturity and precipitation rates in a species' environment can have a strong influence on bite performance.

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