The diversity of body shapes is one of the most prominent features of phenotypic variation in vertebrates. Biologists, however, still lack a full understanding of the underlying morphological components that contribute to its diversity, particularly in endothermic vertebrates such as mammals. In this study, I tested hypotheses pertaining to the evolution of the cranial and axial components that contribute to the diversity of carnivoran body shapes. I found three trends in the evolution of carnivoran body shapes: 1) carnivorans exhibit diverse body shapes with intrafamilial variation predicted best by family clade age, 2) body shape is driven by strong allometric effects of body size where species become more elongate with decreasing size, and 3) the thoracic and lumbar regions and rib length contribute the most to body shape variation, albeit pathways differ between different families. These results reveal the morphological patterns that led to increased diversity in carnivoran body shapes and provide elucidate the similarities and dissimilarities that govern body shape diversity across vertebrates.
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