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Re: A question about tooth enamel and drawing dietary conclusions



David Marjanovic writes:

Well, we _would_ find out that they're much less carnivorous than the average brown bear. It is easy to follow just from teeth how the cave bears became more and more adapted to herbivory.

Anyone have a photo or drawing of a panda dentition handy...?

I stand corrected - their dentition IS fairly different than your average bear (to paraphrase Yogi). See:


http://library.thinkquest.org/27396/head.htm

Although apparently the length of the digestive tract (c. 5 metres) is considered short for something with a 75%-90% herbivorous diet.

Even with the loss of carnassial teeth, their dentition still seems to suggest an omnivorous diet rather than a primarily herbivorous one. Who knows? Given what little we know about pandas, they may be more omnivorous than we think. Or perhaps they've taken herbivorous adaptations as far as their ancestral form will allow. Then again, they could still be a 'work in progress'.

It just goes to show that even having living animals to observe doesn't always answer all the questions. Determining exact dietry preferences for extinct species would be even more difficult. I wonder whether tooth microwear can be easily distinguished from post-depositional abrasion?

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Dann Pigdon
GIS / Archaeologist         http://www.geocities.com/dannsdinosaurs
Melbourne, Australia        http://heretichides.soffiles.com
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