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Using a Novel Absolute Ontogenetic Age Determination Technique to Calculate the Timing of Tooth Eruption in the Saber-Toothed Cat, Smilodon fatalis.

TitleUsing a Novel Absolute Ontogenetic Age Determination Technique to Calculate the Timing of Tooth Eruption in the Saber-Toothed Cat, Smilodon fatalis.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsWysocki, MA, Feranec, RS, Tseng, ZJ, Bjornsson, CS
JournalPLOS ONE
Volume10
Issue7
Paginatione0129847
Abstract

Despite the superb fossil record of the saber-toothed cat, Smilodon fatalis, ontogenetic age determination for this and other ancient species remains a challenge. The present study utilizes a new technique, a combination of data from stable oxygen isotope analyses and micro-computed tomography, to establish the eruption rate for the permanent upper canines in Smilodon fatalis. The results imply an eruption rate of 6.0 millimeters per month, which is similar to a previously published average enamel growth rate of the S. fatalis upper canines (5.8 millimeters per month). Utilizing the upper canine growth rate, the upper canine eruption rate, and a previously published tooth replacement sequence, this study calculates absolute ontogenetic age ranges of tooth development and eruption in S. fatalis. The timing of tooth eruption is compared between S. fatalis and several extant conical-toothed felids, such as the African lion (Panthera leo). Results suggest that the permanent dentition of S. fatalis, except for the upper canines, was fully erupted by 14 to 22 months, and that the upper canines finished erupting at about 34 to 41 months. Based on these developmental age calculations, S. fatalis individuals less than 4 to 7 months of age were not typically preserved at Rancho La Brea. On the whole, S. fatalis appears to have had delayed dental development compared to dental development in similar-sized extant felids. This technique for absolute ontogenetic age determination can be replicated in other ancient species, including non-saber-toothed taxa, as long as the timing of growth initiation and growth rate can be determined for a specific feature, such as a tooth, and that growth period overlaps with the development of the other features under investigation.

URLhttp://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0129847
DOI10.1371/journal.pone.0129847