The dentition of a well-preserved specimen of Camarasaurus sp.: implications for function, tooth replacement, soft part reconstruction, and food intake

Abstract

The basal macronarian genus Camarasaurus was the most common sauropod in the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation of North America and is known from several complete and partial skeletons. The specimen used for this study is Camarasaurus sp. SMA 0002 from the Sauriermuseum Aathal, Switzerland. This specimen was found in the Howe-Stephens Quarry, Bighorn Basin, WY, USA. In this study, the dental morphology, characterized by the spatulate, broad-crowned teeth, the tooth replacement pattern, and the function of the dentition and its implications for food intake is described. Features such as the absence of denticles, the wrinkled pattern of the enamel, and the occurrence of large wear facets on older teeth are characteristic for Camarasaurus sp. A slab of sediment with soft tissue impressions ranging up to the middle part of the crown suggests the presence of a gingival soft tissue structure partially covering the teeth. The wrinkled enamel on the crown of the teeth of Camarasaurus sp. and other sauropods is interpreted as indication of this cover of gingival connective tissue. In addition, there possibly was a keratinous beak, which together with the gingiva held the teeth in the jaw and provided stability for teeth in which the root is almost completely resorbed.

Kurzfassung

Die basale Macronaria-Gattung Camarasaurus war einer der häufigsten Sauropoden der oberjurassischen Morrison-Formation in Nord-Amerika und ist anhand mehrerer vollständig erhaltener Skelettfunde bekannt. Für diese Studie wurde das Exemplar eines Camarasaurus sp. (SMA 0002) des Sauriermuseums Aathal in der Schweiz, untersucht. Dieses Exemplar wurde im Howe-Stephens-Steinbruch im Bighorn Basin, Wyoming, USA, gefunden. In dieser Studie wird die Morphologie der Bezahnung beschrieben, die durch breitkronige, spatelförmige Zähne gekennzeichnet ist. Weiterhin werden der Zahnersatz und die Funktion der Bezahnung sowie die daraus resultierenden Folgen für die Nahrungsaufnahme beschrieben. Diagnostische Merkmale für die Bezahnung von Camarasaurus sp. sind die Abwesenheit von Dentikeln, die Runzelung des Zahnschmelzes und das Auftreten von großen Abrasionsflächen an älteren Zähnen. Eine Struktur mit Hauterhaltung, welche die Zähne bis zur Mitte der Krone bedeckt, deutet auf die Anwesenheit einer zahnfleischähnlichen Struktur hin, welche die Zähne zum Teil bedeckt. Der runzelige Zahnschmelz auf den Zahnkronen von Camarasaurus sp. und anderen Sauropoden wird als ein weiterer Hinweis auf diese zahnfleischartige Struktur interpretiert. Zusätzlich zum Zahnfleisch besaß Camarasaurus wahrscheinlich einen keratinösen Schnabel, der zusammen mit dem Zahnfleisch die Zähne in ihrer Position im Kiefer hielten und Stabilität für Zähne mit fast vollständig resorbierten Wurzeln bot.

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Abbreviations

CMNH:

Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

DfmMh/FV:

Dinosaurier-Freilichtmuseum Münchehagen/Verein zur Förderung der Niedersächsischen Paläontologie, Münchehagen, Germany

DINO:

Dinosaur National Monument, Jensen, UT, USA

GMNH:

Gunma Museum of Natural History, Gunma, Japan

MfN:

Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin, Germany

SMA:

Sauriermuseum Aathal, Aathal, Switzerland

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Acknowledgements

Our foremost thanks go to Dr. Hans Jakob “Köbi” Siber, director, and Dr. Thomas Bolliger, vice director of the Sauriermuseum Aathal, Switzerland, for collaboration and granting us access to the Camarasaurus sp. SMA 0002. Furthermore, we would like to thank Dr. Ben Papst and Dr. Emanuel Tschopp for providing detailed information about SMA 0002. Many thanks go to Nils Knötschke from the Dinopark Münchehagen, Germany, and Dr. Oliver Wings, formerly at the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin, Germany, for allowing us to study the Europasaurus and Giraffatitan material under their care. Special thanks go to Dr. Heinrich Mallison for providing the photogrammetric 3D model of the skull of SMA 0002. Members of the DFG Research Unit 533 “Biology of the Sauropod Dinosaurs” are greatly acknowledged for inspiring discussion, especially Katja Waskow and Jessica Mitchell. Special thanks go to Verena Régent for providing access to her unpublished diploma thesis. Funding of this project was provided through DFG grant SA 469/19. This is contribution number 167 of the DFG Research Unit 533 “Biology of the Sauropod Dinosaurs. The Evolution of Gigantism”.

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Correspondence to Kayleigh Wiersma.

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Wiersma, K., Sander, P.M. The dentition of a well-preserved specimen of Camarasaurus sp.: implications for function, tooth replacement, soft part reconstruction, and food intake. PalZ 91, 145–161 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12542-016-0332-6

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Keywords

  • Camarasaurus sp.
  • Dentition
  • Morphology
  • Function
  • Soft tissue

Schlüsselwörter

  • Camarasaurus sp.
  • Bezahnung
  • Morphologie
  • Funktion
  • Weichteilerhaltung