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Georgia Journal of Science

Article Title

CAN ANCIENT FELIDS AND CANIDS BE DISTINGUISHED BASED UPON THEIR TOOTH MARKS? A CASE STUDY ON MODERN BONES

Abstract

Predator-prey relationships are vital for structuring modern ecosystems but have been especially challenging to investigate in the fossil record. Although there is abundant evidence of carnivore presence in ancient ecosystems in the form of behavioral traces (e.g., tooth marks), their fossils are rare relative to the animals they ingest. In this study, we use a large sample (n = 33) of modern Bos taurus (cow) tibia that have been processed by Canis lupus (wolf) and Panthera leo (lion) to assess whether morphology and location of tooth marks can be used to distinguish canids and felids in the fossil record. The tibia were divided into three sections (proximal, middle, distal) based upon their total length. Based upon previously published studies and our own observations, a new categorization scheme was developed for this study to characterize each tooth mark within these three regions. Our preliminary results indicate that the overall size and position of tooth marks can be used to distinguish wolf and lion behavioral traces. In particular, we find that lions and wolves differ in the manner by which they process the proximal end of cow tibia. These results could infer that lions prefer areas with higher flesh to bone ratios, which is consistent with interpretations based upon dental morphology. This study indicates that behavioral traces on fossils could be the key to unlocking predator-prey relationships in the fossil record.

Acknowledgements

Center for Undergraduate Research (University of North Georgia), Department of Biology, University of North Georgia

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