A Dental Microwear Texture Analysis of the Early Pliocene African Ursid Agriotherium africanum (Mammalia, Carnivora, Ursidae)

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The craniodental morphology of the early Pliocene ursid Agriotherium africanum has been studied extensively to reveal aspects of its dietary ecology. Results suggest that this large-bodied, long-legged, short-faced African native primarily consumed vertebrate matter. While many carnivoran families exhibit a clear functional relationship between craniodental form and performance on the one hand, and dietary behavior on the other, this is not always the case with Ursidae. Because of uncertainties regarding the appropriateness of using craniodental form to investigate ursid diets, questions still linger about the dietary ecology of Ag. africanum. Here, we report on a dental microwear texture analysis of six Ag. africanum lower second molars from the South African fossil site of Langebaanweg. Results support morphological evidence that suggests a diet focused on vertebrate soft tissue and bone. Unfortunately, results cannot clarify questions about mode of acquisition.