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rodents, diprotodont, incisor, morphology, mechanics

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All rodents possess a single pair of enlarged incisors that grow throughout life. This condition (diprotodonty) is characteristic of Rodentia, but is also found in other mammals such as lagomorphs, hyraxes, the aye-aye and common wombat. This study surveyed lower incisor morphology across extant diprotodonts to examine shape variation within and between rodents and other diprotodonts, and to determine if tooth shape varies in a manner predictable from mechanics. Six linear and area variables were recorded from microCT scans of the mandibles of 33 diprotodont mammals. The curvature of the rodent lower incisors, as measured by the proportion of a circle it occupies, was shown to vary between 20 and 45%, with non-Glires taxa falling outside this range. Relative lengths of the portions of the incisor within and external to the mandible were not significantly correlated when the overall size was taken into account. Cross-sectional geometry of the incisor was significantly correlated with the external length of the incisor. Overall, incisor morphology was shown to vary in a way predictable from ecology and mechanics, in order to resist bending. Among non-rodents, lagomorph incisors closely resemble those of rodents, and, relative to rodents, hyrax and wombat incisors are somewhat smaller but aye-aye incisors are much more extreme in morphology.

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Royal Society Open Science, v. 6, issue 3, art. 181317

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