Caniformia Kretzoi, 1938
* Mammal Species of the World, Mammal Species of the World : A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, 2-volume set, 3rd edition, 2005 ISBN 0801882214
Caniformia, or Canoidea (literally "dog-like"), is a suborder within the order Carnivora. They typically possess a long snout and non-retractile claws (in contrast to the cat-like carnivores, the Feliformia). The Pinnipedia (seals, sea lions, and walruses) evolved from caniform ancestors and are accordingly assigned to this group. Most members of this group have non-retractile claws (the fisher, martens, red panda, and the ring-tailed cat have retractile or semi-retractile claws) and tend to be plantigrade (with the exception of Canidae). Another trait that separates them from the Feliformia is that they have more teeth. They have a longer rostrum with less specialized carnassials. They tend more towards omnivorous and opportunity-based feeding, while the feliforms are more specialized in eating meat. Caniforms have single-chambered or partially divided auditory bullae, composed of a single bone, while in feliforms the auditory bullae are double-chambered, composed of two bones joined by a septum.
Caniformia consists of twelve families, with nine extant and three extinct. At one time, Hyaenidae were included, but are now grouped with feliforms. Terrestrial caniforms in the wild are found on all continents with the exception of Antarctica, while pinnipeds are distributed throughout the world's oceans.
The Family Canidae (canids, commonly known as either dogs or canines) includes wolves, dogs, foxes and so on. They are the most social of all the caniforms, living in packs. The dog is the most diverse of all mammals in terms of body structure. The Canidae family is divided into the "true dogs" of the tribe Canini and the "foxes" of the tribe Vulpini. The two species of the basal Caninae are more primitive and don't fit into either tribe.
The Family Ursidae (the bears) are the largest of all the land caniforms. They range from the large polar bear (males, 775–1500+ lb) to the small sun bear (males, 66–132 lb) and from the endangered giant panda to the very common black bear. Common characteristics of modern bears include a large body with stocky legs, a long snout, shaggy hair, plantigrade paws with five nonretractile claws, and a short tail. While the polar bear is mostly carnivorous and the giant panda feeds almost entirely on bamboo, the remaining six species are omnivorous, with largely varied diets including both plants and animals.
The Family Ailuridae (red panda) was once thought to be either part of the Procyonidae or the Ursidae. It is now placed in its own family. It is found in the Himalayas, including southern China, Nepal, Bhutan, India and Pakistan; fossil species of the family also lived in North America.
The Family Mephitidae (skunks), once thought to be part of the Mustelidae, is now recognized as a group in its own right. There are 11 species of skunks, which are divided into four genera: Mephitis (hooded and striped skunks, two species), Spilogale (spotted skunks, two species), Mydaus (stink badgers, two species), and Conepatus (hog-nosed skunks, five species). The two skunk species in the Mydaus genus inhabit Indonesia and the Philippines; all other skunks inhabit the Americas from Canada to central South America.
The Family Mustelidae (weasels and otters) is the most diverse of the group. While highly variable in shape, size and behavior, most mustelids are smaller animals with short legs, short round ears, and thick fur. Mustelids are predominantly carnivorous. While not all mustelids share identical dentition, they all possess teeth adapted for eating flesh, including the presence of shearing carnassials.
Common Raccoon (Procyon lotor)
The Family Procyonidae (raccoons, coatis, etc.), are smallish animals, with generally slender bodies and long tails. Except for the kinkajou, all procyonids have banded tails, and distinct facial markings and, like bears, are plantigrade, walking on the soles of their feet. Most species have non-retractile claws. It has been suggested that early procyonids were an offshoot of the canids that adapted to a more omnivorous diet.
The superfamily Pinnipedia (seals, sea lions, walruses) are a widely distributed and diverse group of semi-aquatic marine mammals descended from a common ancestor most closely related to modern bears. The group comprises three families:
Phocidae: (true seals or earless seals) comprise around 19 species of highly aquatically adapted, barrel-shaped animals ranging from 45 kg and 1.2 meters in length (the Ringed Seal), to 2,400 kg and 5 meters (Southern Elephant Seal). Phocids are found throughout the world's oceans.
New Zealand Sea Lion (Phocarctos hookeri)
Otariidae: (the eared seals, including sea lions and fur seals) Distributed throughout the world's oceans with the exception of the North Atlantic, the 16 species of otariid are distinguished from the phocids by visible external ears (pinnae), more dog-like faces and the ability to turn their rear flippers forward.
Odobenidae (the walrus is the only surviving member). A large (2000 kg), distinctive pinniped with long whiskers and tusks, the walrus has a discontinuous circumpolar distribution in the Arctic Ocean and sub-Arctic seas of the Northern Hemisphere. It is primarily a benthic forager of bivalve mollusks and other marine invertebrates.
Recent molecular evidence suggests that pinnipeds evolved from a bearlike ancestor about 23 million years ago during the late Oligocene or early Miocene epochs, a transitional period between the warmer Paleogene and cooler Neogene period.
1. ^ "Martes pennanti: Fisher". Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Martes_pennanti.html. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
Source: Wikipedia, Wikispecies: All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License