How old is that mountain lion?

How old is that mountain lion? Scientists who can get up close enough, measure age by their teeth. These mammals have 4 types of teeth: incisors, canines, premolars, and molars. Incisors are front teeth that are very straight and used for cutting. Canines are next in the mouth and are pointed teeth used for stabbing prey. Towards the back of the mouth are the premolars and molars which help to crush and grind meat.

After losing their baby teeth young mountain lions have very sharp canines. As the years go on these teeth wear down and become more round. Biologists can measure how old a mountain lion is based on how dull their canines appear. Younger mountain lions (sub-adults) will have sharper canines than their older counterparts (adults).

Scientists also know that the older the lion, the more the gum has receded from the tooth. This can be up to 7mm – about the width of a pencil – through a lion’s lifetime! Gum recession doesn’t start until a year and a half after sub-adults get their permanent teeth.

In addition to the sharpness of the teeth and amount gums have receded, information can also be found in the coloring of the teeth. Younger lions have whiter teeth than seasoned mature adults.

You can read more on how to age mountain lions here.

Korinna Domingo

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