Journal of comparative pathology | 26 Jan 2013
JN Winer, SM Liong and FJ Verstraete
Skulls (n = 1,205) of southern sea otters were examined macroscopically according to defined criteria. The museum specimens, acquired from strandings, varied in age from juvenile to adult, with an equal sex distribution. The results from all young adult and adult specimens were pooled according to tooth type. Ninety-two percent of teeth were available for examination, with 6.5% artifactually absent, 0.6% deemed absent due to acquired tooth loss and 0.03% deemed congenitally absent. All teeth were normal in morphology, except for three pairs of fused teeth, including two instances of fused maxillary first incisor teeth. Supernumerary teeth were associated with 97 normal teeth (most commonly maxillary canine teeth) in 68 specimens. At least one persistent deciduous tooth was present in six skulls, two of which were from adults. The majority (94.6%) of alveoli, either with or without teeth, were not associated with bony changes consistent with periodontitis; however, the majority (74.4%) of specimens did have at least one tooth associated with mild periodontitis. The mesial root of the mandibular third premolar tooth was the most common location at which periodontal hard tissue lesions were observed (56.6%). Ten sea otters had lesions consistent with focal enamel hypoplasia. Approximately half of the teeth (52.0%) were abraded; almost all adult specimens (98.1%) contained at least one abraded tooth, while fewer young adults were affected (76.4%). Tooth fractures were uncommon, affecting 1,343 teeth (4.5%). Periapical lesions were associated with 409 teeth (1.3%) in a total of 176 specimens, and these would likely have caused considerable morbidity while the animals were alive.
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