Lethal biting behaviour of pumas (Carnivora, Felidae) interpreted from fractured skull of prey
Biting behaviour of pumas at the moment of killing their prey is mentioned in the literature as being delivered either to the throat, nape of the neck and base of skull. Detailed anatomic descriptions of it are, however, largely absent in literature. In this article, the biting behaviour of a puma while attacking a peccary is described based on the perforations found on the skull of the prey. An observer looking at the prey-predator struggle would mistakenly conclude that the bite was meant to reach the throat region with the intent of suffocation, when in fact the bite reached and damaged the ventral and posterior region of the skull, and the spinal cord. According with the most likely hypothesis derived from matching a puma skull with that of the collared-peccary, the predator grasped it with its forepaws from behind, and bit at the upper throat region while the peccary held its head back exposing the throat region, allowing the upper canines to reach and damage the occipital bone and auditory bulla. Although there are no marks on the vertebrae, the evidence from the skull match indicate that the penetration of the upper canines into the skull allowed the top incisors to reach exactly where the atlas vertebrae and the occipital condyle connect. The lower canines held the upper part of the cranium, puncturing slightly at the postorbital process. The unusual behaviour of biting the skull from below may be partially due to the presence of an extended nuchal crest in collared-peccaries, which prevent predators to reach the spinal cord from above.
Key words: killing behaviour, Pecari tajacu, predation, Puma concolor.
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