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Perez-Ramos, Alejandro; Kupczik, Kornelius; Van Heteren, Anneke H.; Rabeder, Gernot; Grandal-D'Anglade, Aurora; Pastor, Francisco J.; Serrano, Francisco J. and Figueirido, Borja (2019): A three-dimensional analysis of tooth-root morphology in living bears and implications for feeding behaviour in the extinct cave bear. In: Historical Biology, Vol. 31, No. 4: pp. 461-473

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The morphology of both crowns and tooth-roots reflects dietary specialisation in mammalian carnivores. In this article, we analyse the tooth-root morphology of maxillary teeth from CT scans of living bears (Ursus arctos, Ursus americanus, Ursus maritimus, Ursus thibetanus, Melursus ursinus, Helarctos malayanus, Tremarctos ornatus and Ailuropoda melanoleuca) in order to make inferences about the diet and feeding behaviour of the extinct cave bear (Ursus spelaeus sensu lato). Specifically, we investigate two major mitochondrial clades of extinct cave bears recognized by previous authors: Ursus ingressus and Ursus spelaeus (U. spelaeus spelaeus, U. spelaeus ladinicus, U. spelaeus eremus). Our results indicate a close association between tooth-root surface area and feeding behaviour in all living bear species. Tooth-root surface area values of cave bears suggest that they relied more on vegetative matter than living brown bears (Ursus arctos) but subtle differences between these species/subspecies could also indicate different feeding strategies among the members of cave bear complex.

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