A model for dental age verification using ultrastructural imaging for modern and fossil representatives of the Rhinocerotidae family

Edyta Pasicka, Dariusz Nowakowski, Robin Bendrey, Oleg P. Melnyk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The analyses were performed on a right third premolar (P3) of a white rhinoceros female (Ceratotherium simum, Burchell 1817). The specimen was born in captivity at London Zoo (Zoological Society of London), then in 1970s transferred to Kiev Zoo (Peremohy Avenue), Ukraine, and kept there until it died at a documented chronological age of 48 years. The female died because of its age which indicates it was kept in good conditions adequate to the requirements of this species. Photographs and micrographs with radiological documentation were made on the said tooth. Its structural characteristics were determined, on the occlusal surface identified were areas and points of anatomical constitution of its crown. The tooth was also histologically evaluated via sections taken horizontally in a mesial-distal plane through the crown, horizontally in a mesial-distal plane through the coronal portion of the root, and longitudinally in a lingual-buccal plane through the crown and the root. Preparations with ground sections were made and observed in white, polarized and reflected light. In the subsequent stage X-ray and SEM imaging has also been used, for analysis of the distribution of annual growth layers of mineralized dental tissues of cement and dentine, counted from the root canal center to the buccal surface. An attempt was also made to confirm the annual season in which the animal died, based on cement growth lines. It was observed that the growth lines were visible in all the analyzed sections, in dentine and cement. In the cement, the lines were relatively few and did not represent the attested age of the animal. The analysis of the coloration of the cement lines indicates that the animal was regularly fed a diet that was not seasonally differentiated. From the X-ray examination comes a conclusion that the animal did not suffer from periodontal diseases. Visible growth lines were observed on the dentine. On the horizontal section through the crown growth lines in the dentine were few and unclear. On the longitudinal section, both on the caudal and rostral roots, these lines were clearly visible and much more numerous than expected considering the known age of the animal, as more than 50 were counted. On horizontal sections through the upper part of both roots, distinct growth lines were observed in the dentine and their number—48 for both roots—corresponded precisely to the age of the animal. The results of our study indicate that this method has significant potential for application to verify the age at death for modern and fossil representatives of rhinoceros.
Original languageEnglish
Article number910
Number of pages17
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2021


  • age estimation
  • dentition
  • cement
  • light microscope (LM)
  • dentine
  • scanning electron microscope (SEM)
  • white rhinoceros


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