Evidence of correlated evolution of hypsodonty and exceptional longevity in endemic insular mammals

Xavier Jordana, Nekane Marín-Moratalla, Daniel de Miguel, Thomas M. Kaiser, Meike Köhler

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48 Citations (Scopus)


Here, we test whether the increase in tooth height in insular endemics results from the expansion of the dietary niche under resource limitation, as widely considered, or whether it represents an investment in dental durability in response to the selection for extended longevity under low levels of extrinsic mortality. We tested these hypotheses in the extremely hypsodont fossil bovid Myotragus balearicus from the Balearic Islands, an ideal model to study the evolutionary trends on islands. Dental abrasion was significantly lower in the insular bovid than in highly hypsodont continental artiodactyls, suggesting that feeding habits are not the sole driving force behind increased crown height. However, the estimated longevity for M. balearicus based on dental durability was two times that predicted from body mass. Survivorship curves confirm that an extraordinarily large number of individuals approached the longevity of the species. Our results, hence, provide evidence that hypsodonty in insular endemics is the outcome of selection for increased durability of the permanent dentition in association with an extended lifespan. In the context of insularity, our results lend additional support to the disposable soma theory of ageing confirming the dependency of somatic maintenance and repair on lifespan, and its control by resource availability and extrinsic mortality. © 2012 The Royal Society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3339-3346
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1741
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012


  • Ageing
  • Dental abrasion
  • Disposable soma theory
  • Life-history theory
  • Lifespan
  • Tooth height


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