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Oecologia. 2003 May;135(3):346-53. Epub 2003 Feb 14.

Decelerating and sex-dependent tooth wear in Norwegian red deer.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Division of Zoology, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1050 Blindern, 0316, Oslo, Norway.


In ungulates, tooth wear is often suggested as a proximate cause of senescence. Tooth wear is expected to be sex-dependent since energetic requirements and food selection varies largely between sexes in sexually dimorphic ungulates. Furthermore, tooth wear may lower mastication efficiency, and we predict a negative correlation between tooth wear and body weight or condition. We tested these predictions on data on tooth wear (estimated as height of first molar) of 1,311 male and 1,348 female red deer ( Cervus elaphus) aged 3-25 years and harvested along the west coast of Norway. The rate of tooth wear decreased with age. Males wear teeth at a higher rate (from 0.61 mm/year in 4-year olds to 0.45 mm/year in 11-year olds) than females (from 0.52 mm/year in 4-year olds to 0.39 mm/year in 11-year olds). Molar height correlated positively with body weight in both sexes, but not after adjusting for body size. Molar height was strongly dependent on body size in 3-year-old individuals (when tooth wear is minimal). Earlier reports in the literature of a positive correlation between tooth height and body weight may therefore be due to initial size differences rather than differences in condition due to tooth wear.

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