Dietary niches of creodonts and carnivorans of the late Eocene Cypress Hills Formation

Brigid E Christison, Fred Gaidies, Silvia Pineda-Munoz, Alistair Evans, Marisa A Gilbert, Danielle Fraser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Modern North American carnivorous mammal assemblages consist of species from a single clade: the Carnivora. Carnivorans once coexisted with members of other meat-eating clades, including the creodonts (Hyaenodontida and Oxyaenida). Creodonts, however, went extinct in North America during the late Eocene and early Oligocene, potentially due to niche overlap and resource competition with contemporary carnivorans. In this study, we employ a community ecology approach to understand whether the dietary niches of coexisting creodonts and carnivorans overlapped during the late Eocene (Chadronian North American Land Mammal Age), a time when creodonts were dwindling and carnivorans were diversifying. We quantify niche overlap based on inferences of diet from carnassial tooth shape estimated using Orientation Patch Count, Dirichlet’s Normal Surface Energy, and linear dental measurements as well as from body mass for all species in the Calf Creek Local Fauna of Cypress Hills, Saskatchewan (Treaty 4 land). Although creodonts and carnivorans shared characteristics of their carnassial tooth shape, suggesting similar chewing mechanics and feeding habits, we find that marked differences in body size likely facilitated niche partitioning, at least between the largest creodonts and carnivorans. Calculations of prey focus masses and prey mass spectra indicate that only the smallest creodont may have experienced significant competition for prey with the coeval carnivorans. We suggest that the ultimate extinction of creodonts from North America during the late Eocene and Oligocene was unlikely to have been driven by factors related to niche overlap with carnivorans.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-17
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Mammalogy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022

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