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Dental wear and oral food processing in Caiman latirostris: analogue for fossil crocodylians with crushing teeth

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Abstract:

Almost all of the 23 extant species of crocodylians are opportunistic predators that consume their food without extensive intraoral food processing. Posterior bulbous crushing teeth with heavy dental wear in two specimens of Caiman latirostris, however, indicate that oral food processing can be an important factor during feeding. Wear pattern analysis in two specimens of C. latirostris clearly indicates crushing of hard food items that produced large wear surfaces on tooth crowns in the posterior part of the tooth row. This type of wear suggests that the diet was predominantly composed of durable, hard-shelled prey (e.g.molluscs, crustaceans, turtles), a supposition confirmed by recent studies on the stomach contents of several C. latirostris specimens. The absence of similar wear patterns in other ontogenetically mature specimens of C. latirostris, however, indicates that specific, possibly regional differences in food resources might affect the degree and type of dental wear. The dental features we report in C. latirostris can provide an important extant analogue for fossil forms with similar dentitions (e.g. Bernissartia, Unasuchus and globidontan eusuchians).

Keywords: BEHAVIOUR; CROCODILES; DENTAL WEAR; FOSSIL; RECENT

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1127/0077-7749/2011/0161

Publication date: August 1, 2011

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