Dental pathologies in the mandibles of cave bears from Grotta delle Pale Rosse (Passo Brocon, Trentino Alto Adige – North Italy)

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Abstract:

Often Late Quaternary remains of cave bears (now have been recognized at least three species or subspecies in the Alps: Ursus spelaeus eremus, U. ladinicus and U. ingressus s. Hofreiter et al. (2004), Rabeder et al. (2004), Rabeder & Hofreiter (2004) show clear evidence of pathologies particularly so in some of the dental components. The kind of diet and the old age attained thanks to the paucity of natural enemies is evidenced by pronounced signs of wear of the teeth, resulting in fractures, infections and tooth falls. Although these conditions did not directly result in the animals death, as shown by the closure of the alveoli of the teeth lost during the animal's life, they did make it more difficult for the bear to eat and importantly prepare for winter hibernation when food was abundant during late summer and autumn. In the mandibular remains from the Grotta delle Pale Rosse (Passo Brocon, Trentino Alto Adige region, North Italy) the dental pathologies are more frequent in 4th premolars and first molars, probably due to the structural fragility linked to the conformation of these teeth. Apical infections of the last molars as consequence of the opening of the pulpar cavity are also discussed. A rare agenesia of a mandibular premolar has been also found.
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