Enamel microstructure in the fossil bovid Myotragus balearicus (Majorca, Spain): Implications for life-history evolution of dwarf mammals in insular ecosystems

Xavier Jordana, Meike Köhler

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59 Citations (Scopus)


The causes underlying the evolution of insular dwarfs and giants are a matter of ongoing debate. Because body size is among the principle life history traits, recent works aim to understand the evolution of insular dwarfs in the framework of life history theory. However, the hypotheses put forward so far are conflicting. Early studies, suggested that dwarfing is a consequence of selection for an increased reproduction associated to an accelerated life history (formerly r-selection). Recent work, however, based on the analysis of bone histology of the fossil insular dwarf bovid Myotragus balearicus (Balearic Islands, Spain), concluded that dwarfing on islands results from a decrease in growth rate associated to a slow life history (formerly K-selection) in response to selective forces peculiar to insular conditions. In the present work, we reconstruct the schedule of certain life history traits by estimating the rate of dental development and eruption times in M. balearicus and, for comparisons, in an extant caprine (Ovis aries). We used histological techniques to calculate crown formation time, daily secretion rate and crown extension rate, in the lower molars. Eruption pattern in M. balearicus was analysed through the radiological images of an ontogenetic series of mandibles. Our results show that dental crowns grew at slower rates and the period of crown formation was more extended in the dwarfed fossil bovid than in other extant caprines, resulting in dental development and eruption time that doubles that of extant bovids of similar body size. This suggests an important delay in life history schedules. Concordant with the delayed dental development, the striking hypsodonty of Myotragus is indicative of an extended lifespan. These results, together with previous findings from long bone histology, provide empirical evidence for a shift towards a slow life history in this insular dwarfed mammal. Density-dependent resource limitation is hypothesized as the main trigger of the life history and body size evolution of Myotragus. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-66
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2011


  • Body size
  • Dental Microstructure
  • Dwarfism
  • Insularity
  • Life history
  • Paleohistology


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