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Cranial morphology of five felids: Acinonyx jubatus, Panthera onca, Panthera pardus, Puma concolor, Uncia uncia
Sims M.E.
P. 157-170
Felid skulls often appear as evidence in wildlife forensic casework at the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory (NFWFL). Five species commonly seen in U.S.-imported trophy shipments include cheetah, jaguar, leopard, puma, and snow leopard. Because these species are given different levels of protection under federal, state, and international law, an effective prosecution requires species-level identification. There is limited comparative morphological information available to identify these skulls to species when country of origin is unknown. The purpose of the project was twofold: 1) to research species-specific characteristics that will differentiate five species of medium-sized felids based on skull morphology and 2) to develop identification aids to help wildlife law enforcement officers distinguish mid-size cat skulls. A visual comparison of qualitative non-metric features, such as the shape of the ectotympanic process and the expression of canine grooves, is sufficient to distinguish the five species. A flowchart and identification guide were developed to assist law enforcement officers in identifications when measuring devices cannot be used, especially when conducting undercover investigations.

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