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Incus facet morphology in carnivorous mammals from different ecosystems: Taxonomy vs. habitat

ABSTRACT

This study is prompted by the discovery of an incus of Hyaenodon, the first known auditory ossicle of this genus and thus of any hyaenodont mammal so far. A large set of incudes of recent Carnivora, including felids, hyaenids, viverrids, herpestids, nandiniid and canids of different ecosystems, was set up for morphological comparison. This study examines especially the incudo-mallear facet. Typically, the incudo-mallear facet is composed of: (1) three articular surfaces in felids, (2) a U-shaped surface in hyaenids and (3) four surfaces in canids. Both taxonomy (on family level) and habitat (open, closed or mixed habitat preference) might have an impact on the morphology of the incus facets, the former having a major impact in our sample. The Hyaenodon incus is small, delicate and possesses an incudo-mallear facet of a general saddle-shape with two articulation facets, a large superior articulation area and a circular, inferior articulation area. Herein, its general morphology and facet shape is most similar to the felid incus morphology.