Histological evidence of trauma in tusks of southern African dicynodonts
Whitney, Megan R.
Tse, Yuen Ting
Sidor, Christian A.
Evolutionary Studies Institute
Dicynodonts were a clade of globally-distributed therapsids known for their abundance in the fossil record and for surviving the Permo-Triassic mass extinction. The group had distinctive dental adaptations including a beak and, in many species, paired maxillary tusks. The function of these tusks has long been of interest, yet remains poorly understood.We report here on two instances of unusual morphology in tusk dentine from specimens of: 1) Lystrosaurus from the Karoo Basin of South Africa and, 2) an unidentified dicynodontoid from the Luangwa Basin of Zambia. In both, the cross-sectional shape of the tusk root is lobed and infolded, which histological features suggest is a result of abnormal dentine deposition. We infer that this abnormal morphology is likely the consequence of trauma given its reparative nature and structural similarities to trauma-related morphologies reported in the tusks of modern elephants. This study demonstrates that histological sampling of dicynodont tusks can shed light on the biology of this important clade of therapsids.
Dicynodontia, Triassic, South Africa, Zambia, Permian, pathology, dentine