The scaling of postcranial muscles in cats (Felidae) I: forelimb, cervical, and thoracic muscles

Cuff, A R and Sparkes, E L and Randau, M and Pierce, S E and Kitchener, A C and Goswami, A and Hutchinson, J R (2016) The scaling of postcranial muscles in cats (Felidae) I: forelimb, cervical, and thoracic muscles. JOURNAL OF ANATOMY, 229 (1). pp. 128-141.

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The body masses of cats (Mammalia, Carnivora, Felidae) span a ~300‐fold range from the smallest to largest species. Despite this range, felid musculoskeletal anatomy remains remarkably conservative, including the maintenance of a crouched limb posture at unusually large sizes. The forelimbs in felids are important for body support and other aspects of locomotion, as well as climbing and prey capture, with the assistance of the vertebral (and hindlimb) muscles. Here, we examine the scaling of the anterior postcranial musculature across felids to assess scaling patterns between different species spanning the range of felid body sizes. The muscle architecture (lengths and masses of the muscle‐tendon unit components) for the forelimb, cervical and thoracic muscles was quantified to analyse how the muscles scale with body mass. Our results demonstrate that physiological cross‐sectional areas of the forelimb muscles scale positively with increasing body mass (i.e. becoming relatively larger). Many significantly allometric variables pertain to shoulder support, whereas the rest of the limb muscles become relatively weaker in larger felid species. However, when phylogenetic relationships were corrected for, most of these significant relationships disappeared, leaving no significantly allometric muscle metrics. The majority of cervical and thoracic muscle metrics are not significantly allometric, despite there being many allometric skeletal elements in these regions. When forelimb muscle data were considered in isolation or in combination with those of the vertebral muscles in principal components analyses and MANOVAs, there was no significant discrimination among species by either size or locomotory mode. Our results support the inference that larger felid species have relatively weaker anterior postcranial musculature compared with smaller species, due to an absence of significant positive allometry of forelimb or vertebral muscle architecture. This difference in strength is consistent with behavioural changes in larger felids, such as a reduction of maximal speed and other aspects of locomotor abilities.

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