The Head and Neck Muscles of the Serval and Tiger: Homologies, Evolution, and Proposal of a Mammalian and a Veterinary Muscle Ontology

Rui Diogo, Francisco Pastor, Felix De Paz, Josep M. Potau, Gaëlle Bello-Hellegouarch, Eva M. Ferrero, Rebecca E. Fisher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Here we describe the head and neck muscles of members of the two extant felid subfamilies (Leptailurus serval: Felinae; Panthera tigris: Pantherinae) and compare these muscles with those of other felids, other carnivorans (e.g., domestic dogs), other eutherian mammals (e.g., rats, tree-shrews and modern humans), and noneutherian mammals including monotremes. Another major goal of the article is to discuss and help clarify nomenclatural discrepancies found in the Nomina Anatomica Veterinaria and in veterinary atlases and textbooks that use cats and dogs as models to understand the anatomy of domestic mammals and to stress differences with modern humans. We propose a unifying nomenclature that is expanded to all the head and neck muscles and to all mammalian taxa in order to help build veterinary and mammalian muscle ontologies. Our observations and comparisons and the specific use of this nomenclature point out that felids such as tigers and servals and other carnivorans such as dogs have more facial muscle structures related to the mobility of both the auricular and orbital regions than numerous other mammals, including modern humans, which might be the result of an ancient adaptation related to the remarkable predatory capacities of carnivorans. Interestingly, the skeletal differences, mainly concerning the hyoid apparatus, pharynx, and larynx, that are likely associated with the different types of vocalizations seen in the Felinae (mainly purring) and Pantherinae (mainly roaring) are not accompanied by clear differences in the musculature connected to these structures in the feline L. serval and the pantherine P. tigris.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2157-2178
Number of pages22
JournalAnatomical Record
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2012


  • Anatomy
  • Evolution
  • Felids
  • Head and neck muscles
  • Homologies
  • Mammals
  • Ontology
  • Serval and tiger

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Anatomy
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Histology


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