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A Re-Evaluation of the Diversity of "Megantereon" (Mammalia, Carnivora, Machairodontinae) and the Problem of Species Identification in Extinct Carnivores

Paul Palmqvist, Vanessa Torregrosa, Juan A. Pérez-Claros, Bienvenido Martínez-Navarro and Alan Turner
Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology
Vol. 27, No. 1 (Mar. 12, 2007), pp. 160-175
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4524675
Page Count: 16
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A Re-Evaluation of the Diversity of "Megantereon" (Mammalia, Carnivora, Machairodontinae) and the Problem of Species Identification in Extinct Carnivores
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Abstract

In this article, hypotheses about the origin, evolution and dispersal of Megantereon are reviewed using the fossil specimens included in previous comparative studies as well as the remains identified in the late Pliocene site of Fonelas (Spain) and the early Pleistocene localities of Lantian, Lingyi, Longdan, Renzidong (China), and Untermassfeld (Germany). The validity of the two species proposed by Martinez-Navarro and Palmqvist (1995), Megantereon cultridens and M. whitei, is evaluated using tooth measurements and multivariate statistical methods. The hypothesis of sexual dimorphism as an explanation for the morphological variability of Megantereon is tested with a large sample of sexed individuals of Panthera pardus and Panthera leo. Results obtained indicate similar or even smaller differences in tooth dimensions between M. cultridens and M. whitei than between sexes in both leopards and lions, except in the case of the lower fourth premolar. However, in spite of a substantial overlap between both Megantereon species in the size of the upper canine, this tooth reverses the differences found for other tooth measurements, because M. cultridens shows larger cheek teeth on average than M. whitei but smaller sabers. This is confirmed by principal components and discriminant analyses, which reveal that sexual dimorphism in leopards and lions is a matter of tooth size and not of relative proportions and argues against the interpretation of M. cultridens and M. whitei as the sexes (males and females, respectively) of a single species. These results indicate that M. cultridens and M. whitei are valid species, because the differences in tooth measurements exceed those expected from sexual dimorphism and do not reveal the effects of biased sampling. Finally, an analysis of jaw anatomy reveals biomechanical differences between both Megantereon species, related to the relative efficiency of the biting muscles at the level of the lower carnassial.

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