Dental Eruption Series and Replacement Pattern in Miocene Prosantorhinus (Rhinocerotidae) as Revealed by Macroscopy and X-ray: Implications for Ontogeny and Mortality Profile

Abstract

Fossil evidence of complete sequences of dental ontogeny in extinct mammals is rare but contains valuable information on the animal’s physiology, life history, and individual age. Here, we analyzed an exceptionally high number of juvenile dentaries at different developmental stages including highly fragile tooth germs of the extinct rhinoceros Prosantorhinus germanicus from the Miocene fossil lagerstätte Sandelzhausen in Germany. We used dental wear stages, eruption stages, and tooth germ development in order to reconstruct the tooth replacement pattern for P. germanicus. The results allow for the distinction of 11 dental eruption stages and document a tooth eruption sequence of (d2, d3), (d1, d4), m1, m2, p2, p3, p4, m3; a pattern identical to that reported for the extant African rhinoceros, Diceros bicornis. Moreover, our findings indicate that P. germanicus falls into the life history category of slow-growing, long-living mammals. The dental eruption stages of the fossil rhinoceros were correlated with data of living rhinoceroses in order to gain insight into the age-at-death distribution of P. germanicus at Sandelzhausen. The juvenile mortality profile of P. germanicus shows a trend of selective mortality at an inferred age range of about 3 months to 3 years. As this age range represents a life phase of increased natural risk of mortality, our findings indicate a gradual accumulation of corpses (attritional fossil assemblage). This result supports the interpretation of a taphocenosis found at the Sandelzhausen fossil site.

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Acknowledgments

Our gratitude goes to the late vertebrate palaeontologist Volker Fahlbusch who devoted an essential part of his life to the recovery and exploration of the Sandelzhausen fossils and site. The city of Mainburg, especially the then mayor Josef Egger, provided substantial support during excavations. Due to the committed excavation team and Mainburg residents the huge number of exceptional fossils were saved. The German Research Foundation (DFG) (Sonderforschungsbereich 53 “Paläoökologie”und GZ-4850/88/05), Stiftung zur Förderung der Wissenschaften, Wolf Klimatechnik GmbH, Sparkasse Kelheim, Deutsche Gleis und Tiefbau GmbH, Bosch-Siemens-Hausgeräte GmbH, Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Stadtsparkasse München, Pinsker Druck und Medien, Thyssen RÖRO, Ziegelwerk Leipfinger und Bader, VW-Werk, Elektrofirma Burger, Isar-Amper-Werke München gave financial support for excavation, preparation, and taxonomic as well as paleoecological research. We thank the radiological team of the Clinic for Small Animal Surgery at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich for producing the radiographs and CT scans. We thank G. Janssen (then Munich) for taking photographs of the fossils. We also acknowledge M. Krings (Munich) and S. Schneider (Cambridge) as well as two anonymous reviewers, whose helpful comments enhanced the quality of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Christine Böhmer.

Appendix

Appendix

Table 6 Prosantorhinus germanicus specimens measured in this study to evaluate dental wear

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Böhmer, C., Heissig, K. & Rössner, G.E. Dental Eruption Series and Replacement Pattern in Miocene Prosantorhinus (Rhinocerotidae) as Revealed by Macroscopy and X-ray: Implications for Ontogeny and Mortality Profile. J Mammal Evol 23, 265–279 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10914-015-9313-x

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Keywords

  • Prosantorhinus germanicus
  • Perissodactyla
  • Tooth wear
  • Dental development
  • Life history
  • Sandelzhausen