Mammalian tooth marks on the bones of dinosaurs and other Late Cretaceous vertebrates

Nicholas R. Longrich, Michael J. Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (SciVal)


Abstract: We describe bones from the Late Cretaceous of Alberta - including bones of large dinosaurs, a femur from the aquatic reptile Champsosaurus, and a dentary from the marsupial Eodelphis- that bear tooth marks made by animals with opposing pairs of teeth. Of the animals known from the Late Cretaceous of North America, only mammals are capable of making such tooth marks. In particular, multituberculates, which have paired upper and lower incisors, are the most likely candidates for the makers of these traces. The traces described here represent the oldest known mammalian tooth marks. Although it is possible that some of these tooth marks represent feeding traces, the tooth marks often penetrate deep into the dense cortices of the bone. This raises the possibility that, much as extant mammals gnaw bone and antler, some Cretaceous mammals may have consumed the bones of dinosaurs and other vertebrates as a source of minerals. However, none of the tooth marks described here resemble the extensive gnaw traces produced by Cenozoic multituberculates or rodents. This suggests that specialized gnawing forms may have been rare or absent in the Late Cretaceous of North America.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)703-709
Number of pages7
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010


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