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Biology and Conservation of Musteloids$
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David W. Macdonald, Chris Newman, and Lauren A. Harrington

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198759805

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198759805.001.0001

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Form and function of the musteloids

Form and function of the musteloids

(p.92) Chapter 3 Form and function of the musteloids
Biology and Conservation of Musteloids

Andrew C. Kitchener

Carlo Meloro

Terrie M. Williams

Oxford University Press

The musteloids are the most speciose of the carnivorans and have a global distribution. They display a wide diversity of morphological and physiological form and function, which have been shaped by their adaptation to a wide variety of ecological niches, ranging from the Arctic to the tropics and deserts to the seas. This chapter explores how several morphological and physiological adaptations are key to their successful diversification, including an elongated body, a highly insulating pelage, powerful teeth and jaws, anal sacs for olfactory communication or chemical defence, and reproductive physiologies that allow females to optimise their reproductive output. While many of these adaptations are shared by other carnivorans, it is their combination in musteloids that has allowed them to diversify so successfully globally.

Keywords:   pelage, insulation, senses, scent glands, skulls, teeth, locomotion, reproduction, torpor, aquatic adaptations

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