So I have struck another snag in my draft involving my character's biology. It is an anthropomorphic animal related to the pantherinae subfamily. So far, its physical structure resembles that of a human, in exception of hands, feet, tail and the head, which I find problematic. Using a human skull as a reference, carnivorous variants of the maxilla and mandible (other facial bones adjusted) are added with proportional cranial vault volume. This made the skull elongated front to back when compared to the reference.

Obviously I was faced with a weight distribution issue since the head was now much heavier. Retaining the human skull's balance on the first cervical vertebrae along with its original lumbar spine, thoracic spine, and sacral spine support, I compensated by reinforcing the nuchal ligament and surrounding connective tissue to off-set the additional weight in such a way that center of gravity from the human reference was preserved.

Will this configuration be stable enough to comfortably support the animalistic head? Or should I reposition the skull on the first cervical vertebrae? Or should I add more ligaments and connective tissue to the occipital bone?

Additional Information:

  • The character is plantigrade in favor of balance and heavy lifting as opposed to the traditional digitrade most anthropomorphic creatures (werewolves, minotaurs etc.) have.
  • The sacro-iliac joint and the lumbar curve are structured accordingly to accommodate a tail.
  • The sketch below best represents my concerns. (Disclaimer: The sketch below is NOT mine. I suck at drawing.)

enter image description here

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ IMO, this is exactly the type of question Worldbuilding SE was originally envisioned for. Welcome to the site and the network! I do hope you'll stay around and contribute more as your work progresses. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Apr 11, 2018 at 16:33
  • $\begingroup$ CT scan had revealed the presence of air cavities found in T-rex skull that weights approx. half a ton without which it would be about 20% heavier, not only that the extra space allows room for more muscle to hold the head properly. I know this because I once helped a T-rex to train for push up anyway good question ;D $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Apr 12, 2018 at 6:06
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I don't know what exactly you're referring to with "intellectual property concerns" in revision 11, but I personally hope that you'll reconsider the choice to delete your account. We will not delete the question itself, as doing so would not be fair to the people who spent time answering your question; we don't know who might find this helpful in possibly years' time. In fact, self-destruction of useful content can be cause for temporary account suspension. See also the terms of service on "subscriber content" and "copyright policy". $\endgroup$
    – user
    Apr 12, 2018 at 19:31

3 Answers 3


You do not want ligaments. You want muscles.

Trex neck muscles and related therasaurs

image from Functional variation of neck muscles and their relation to feeding style in Tyrannosauridae and other large theropod dinosaurs

from https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn25418-t-rex-didnt-need-proper-arms-thanks-to-its-neck/

This article reviews research by Snively et al in which they deduce what sort of muscles T rex had in its neck and what it did with them.

Many of the birds also shook their necks, and the main muscle involved was found in the necks of tyrannosaurs. “The shaking motion is the same as when a dog shakes off water,” says Snively. “We think that the dinosaur would have used this motion to dislodge meat from a carcass.”

Their powerful necks could explain why tyrannosaurs had such small arms, says Snively. “Tyrannosaurs didn’t need big arms to hunt, because their powerful bites and hyper-bulldog necks did the job,” he says. “From the shoulders forward, T. rex was like a whole killer whale: just bite, shake and twist.”

Tyrannosaur necks are also similar to crocodile necks. “We can think of them as striking like a bird, and shake-feeding like a crocodile,” says Snively.

Reading the Snively article, M complexus is the big muscle that did most of the work in the Trex and also the chicken. Mammals have that muscle too - in humans it is called semispinalis captius. It is one of the big ones running up the spine and attaching at the back of the skull.

semispinalis capitus https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semispinalis_muscles

I think the horse also gives a good idea about how this big muscle would support an elongated head.

horse muscles https://www.pinterest.com/pin/49398927143599016/

So your cat person: she would have a thick, muscular neck, especially in the back of the neck and down the spine. Cats usually kill with a single killing bite, and do not feed like a Trex or killer whale or alligator. But one could feed this way, and it would be a weird kind of fierce for a big cat. Dogs are closely related carnivores and they grab and shake small prey like squirrels. Your cat person would use its huge head, muscular neck, and tall stance to grab, lift and shake large prey, breaking it.

A cat person with a cave lion head and the posture of a Trex would be something to see, and if you see fit to make such a sketch please link it up. The Trex is canted forward slightly because of its big head and so too your cat person. A thick tail acts a counterbalance, and one sees a similar principle at work in the kangaroo. A tail that thick would probably not be prehensile but iguana-style tail whacks would be a good way to fight conspecifics you do not want to outright kill.


Strengthening the nuchal ligament I think is a good move. But you're still trying to rest a massive thick boned skull on a rather puny neck and rather puny thorax. Especially with the big cats' huge "carnivorous variants of the maxilla and mandible". That will make the face itself extremely heavy and out of balance with the posterior skull.

Question for question:

  • Have you considered decreasing the size of the face, while still retaining a big cat look? In other words, reduce the size of the fangs and the mass of the jaws and thus the mass of the muscle required to rend and tear. Kind of carnivore light?

  • Have you considered utilising a more "kitten like" skull structure? Smaller, more compact structure, but still obviously feline in nature.

  • Have you considered a "cat face mask"? In other words, in stead of massive bones and huge teeth, reduce the bone weight considerably, but fill out the defects with soft tissue and fur, especially patterned fur?

  • Alternatively, would it be possible to seriously bulk up the body? A big gorilla sized body should be able to support a good sized cat head!

Basically, this reality check comes down to "keeping things in balance", which obviously you are aware of. I'm sure that you're heading in the right direction, but I'm not convinced that modifications to the ligament (and surrounding connective & muscle tissues) without some modifications to the face & skull will be enough.

If you're able to, a sketch would be worth a thousand words of speculation as to where exactly you are at this point!

Notes on the image:

  • I see the enlarged nuchal ligament as you described. That seems in order.
  • You might need to lengthen the spinous processes (the bits that stick off the posterior of the vertebrae) in order to support the enlarged ligament and posterior neck musculature.
  • Overall, the skull does not appear overlarge, so would probably not pose too many issues attached to a human skeleton. Notice the overall reduction in mass of bone and muscle & manageable teeth.
  • I know this isn't your sketch, but the very tiny brain case size concerns me! This fellow must be pretty dim! Looks like he's not got much going on upstairs!

Conclusion: I think this sketch is headed (oo, bad pun!) in the right direction. Catlike but not too large for the intended skeletal structure. I'd only suggest working on the posterior skull a bit. Catfolk, if they're to be intelligent and sentient and human-like, will need bigger brains than a cat skull can hold!

  • $\begingroup$ Sure, brain size is not the totality of the answer. A five year old child is still smarter than a tiger with a bigger sized brain! My concern, though, is that this cat's brain really is tiny! On the other paw, if you as author / inventor declare "Catfolks' intelligence is on par with humans'", well, who am I to complain! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Apr 12, 2018 at 2:09
  • $\begingroup$ Enlarging the skull to fit in a bigger brain might help balance the weight distribution while keeping the elongated frontal structure, though. $\endgroup$ Apr 12, 2018 at 9:22
  • $\begingroup$ I think that makes sense. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Apr 12, 2018 at 23:16

Everybody's talking about musculature but it's the skeletal structure that supports the weight, remember muscles don't push they pull, no amount of pulling is going to keep a head up unless there's a spinal column to keep it there. To support a heavier head you simply need thicker/shorter/fewer neck vertebrae, of course this will reduce flexibility. Your cat people won't be able to look over their shoulders like we can, but it's a worthwhile trade off if they want to use their teeth as a weapon without risking a broken neck.

Although a biped doesn't really have any business biting things unless it's built like a theropod, the kinematics are all wrong, in order to bite something your cat-people will need to move their entire torso to bring their short-necked head into position and using your head as a weapon isn't a great idea when you've got a large sophisticated brain to protect.


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