Molar Tooth Diversity, Disparity, and Ecology in Cenozoic Ungulate Radiations

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Science  29 Nov 1996:
Vol. 274, Issue 5292, pp. 1489-1492
DOI: 10.1126/science.274.5292.1489


A classic example of adaptive radiation is the diversification of Cenozoic ungulates into herbivore adaptive zones. Their taxonomic diversification has been associated with changes in molar tooth morphology. Analysis of molar crown types of the Artiodactyla, Perissodactyla, and archaic ungulates (“Condylarthra”) shows that the diversity of genera and crown types was high in the Eocene. Post-Eocene molars of intermediate crown types are rare, and thus the ungulate fauna contained more taxa having fewer but more disparate crown types. Taxonomic diversity trends alone give incomplete descriptions of adaptive radiations.