Alt. Name: American Badger
Location: AMNH Department of Mammalogy
Specimen ID: AMNH 120577
This is an STL model of Taxidea taxus, cranium and mandible, used in finite element simulations in Prybyla et al. (2019).
Title: Biomechanical simulations of Leptarctus primus (Leptarctinae, Carnivora), and new evidence for a badger-like feeding capability
Authors: Prybyla AN, Tseng ZJ, Flynn JJ
Journal: Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2018.1531290
Variations in craniodental morphology have been correlated to feeding adaptations in living organisms and used as proxies for paleodiet reconstruction. Within the mammalian order Carnivora, the Miocene fossil musteloid Leptarctus has been variably interpreted as a carnivore, frugivore, herbivore, omnivore, or insectivore based on morphological comparisons with extant species. Here, we perform the first simulation of cranial biomechanics in Leptarctus primus, aiming to identify a living analogue using biomechanical capability rather than qualitative morphology. Finite element models (FEMs) of 18 extant carnivorans and two extinct outgroup taxa were used to compare known diet-biomechanics relationships with the biomechanical properties of L. primus FEMs within a phylogenetic context. Multivariate analyses of simulated bite efficiency and skull stiffness values indicate that L. primus is most similar overall to Taxidea taxus (American badger) in unilateral bite simulations. Based on biomechanical predictions, we postulate that L. primus resembled the American badger in its feeding ecology more closely than any other taxon tested and thus conclude that L. primus was dominantly a carnivore with an auxiliary feeding capability of omnivory. We also compared the L. primus FEMs with the potentially synonymous Hypsoparia bozemanensis to determine a possible range of feeding capabilities. We observed an increase in mechanical efficiency with a deepening of the zygomae of H. bozemanensis, a trait previously used to differentiate it from L. primus. Ongoing work to expand the database of cranial biomechanical simulation data across Carnivoramorpha should help to further clarify evolutionary patterns of skull biomechanical specializations in musteloids and other carnivorans.