Journal of Mammalian Evolution

, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 505–515 | Cite as

A Dental Microwear Texture Analysis of the Early Pliocene African Ursid Agriotherium africanum (Mammalia, Carnivora, Ursidae)

  • Deano D. StynderEmail author
  • Larisa R. G. DeSantis
  • Shelly L. Donohue
  • Blaine W. Schubert
  • Peter S. Ungar
Original Paper


The craniodental morphology of the early Pliocene ursid Agriotherium africanum has been studied extensively to reveal aspects of its dietary ecology. Results suggest that this large-bodied, long-legged, short-faced African native primarily consumed vertebrate matter. While many carnivoran families exhibit a clear functional relationship between craniodental form and performance on the one hand, and dietary behavior on the other, this is not always the case with Ursidae. Because of uncertainties regarding the appropriateness of using craniodental form to investigate ursid diets, questions still linger about the dietary ecology of Ag. africanum. Here, we report on a dental microwear texture analysis of six Ag. africanum lower second molars from the South African fossil site of Langebaanweg. Results support morphological evidence that suggests a diet focused on vertebrate soft tissue and bone. Unfortunately, results cannot clarify questions about mode of acquisition.


Mammalia Ursidae Dental microwear textures Early Pliocene South Africa 



This work is based on research supported in part by the National Research Foundation of South Africa (Grant Number 103807 provided to Stynder, University of Cape Town). It is also supported by the National Science Foundation of the USA (Grant Number 1053839 provided to DeSantis, Vanderbilt University). We would like to thank Romala Govender for access to the Agriotherium africanum material under her curatorship at Iziko, The South African Museum.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Deano D. Stynder
    • 1
    Email author
  • Larisa R. G. DeSantis
    • 2
    • 3
  • Shelly L. Donohue
    • 4
  • Blaine W. Schubert
    • 5
  • Peter S. Ungar
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Archaeology, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of Cape TownRondeboschSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of Earth and Environmental ScienceVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Rancho La BreaLa Brea Tar Pits and MuseumLos AngelesUSA
  4. 4.Department of PaleontologySan Diego Natural History MuseumSan DiegoUSA
  5. 5.Center of Excellence in Paleontology and Department of GeosciencesEast Tennessee State UniversityJohnson CityUSA
  6. 6.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of ArkansasFayettevilleUSA

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