Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Tooth Wear Pattern Study of the Durophagus Maastrichtian Cretaceous Mosasaur Carinodens belgicus

Dental macro- and microwear in Carinodens belgicus, a small mosasaur from the type Maastrichtian


Holwerda et al


Teeth of the small durophagous mosasaur Carinodens belgicus are known from Maastrichtian Atlantic-Tethyan deposits worldwide. The peculiar dentition of Carinodens inspired debate and speculation on its dietary niche ever since its first description. In this contribution, we describe the macro- and microwear pattern in five well-preserved isolated teeth, allowing further and independent evaluation of aspects of feeding behavior and diet. Macroscopically, wear is concentrated on the apex and mesiodistal sides. Microwear was mapped using Scanning Electron Microscopy at several magnifications and can be characterised as scratches and pits. Coarse scratches were found to be the most common and pits were found to be the least common feature. Scratch orientation is primarily along the mesiodistal plane or in the labiolingual plane with an angle of ~130°. These microwear features can be explained either by oral processing or passive abrasion by sediments or food. As scratch width only indicates the minimum width of the abrading particle, the material causing the wear here could have ranged from silica-based silts to larger abrasives. However, in this case, abrasion by sediments might not explain this wear because of the biocalcarenitic nature of the type Maastrichtian sediments; siliciclastics are virtually absent. Therefore it is more likely that hard food particles, such as benthic organisms with hard exoskeletons, caused the wear on the enamel of Carinodens, or Carinodens ventured out to more sandy areas to forage as well. The mesiodistal and labiolingual direction of the microwear scratches might suggest that Carinodens showed more complexity in the use of its teeth than simple grasping, and that a gripping and pulling motion during feeding similar to that employed by modern varanids may have been the cause.

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