Dental anomalies and incidence of palatal erosion in Namibian cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus jubatus)

  • January 1, 2004
  • by Marker L. L., A.J. Dickman


Two hundred and eight wild-caught cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus jubatus) were live trapped on Namibian farmlands and examined for signs of dental anomalies. Three anomalies were recorded: erosion of the upper palate (possibly a predisposition to focal palatine erosion, where the first lower molar penetrates the palatine mucosa), crowding of lower incisors, and absence of one or both upper premolars. Just over 40% of cheetahs examined showed deep palatine erosion, and 15.3% of these had perforated upper palates. In addition, 31.7% of cheetahs examined had crowded lower incisors and 20.9% had one or both upper premolars missing. The incidence of focal palatine erosion is of particular interest as it has previously been recorded only in captive cheetahs, where it was attributed to a soft captive diet, and not previously recorded for wild individuals. To attempt further understanding of potential causes of such erosion, degree of erosion was examined in relation to sex, age, region, time in captivity, and occurrence of other dental anomalies. No relationship was found between severity of erosion and time spent in captivity, while juveniles showed more severe erosion than adult cheetahs. Cheetahs missing either one or both upper premolars showed a higher incidence of deep erosion, as was true for cheetahs that exhibited crowded lower incisors. The traditional explanation of focal palatine erosion being an artifact of captivity does not explain its occurrence in this sample population of cheetahs, the majority of which were raised entirely in the wild.

Share with friends