• Brazil;
  • enamel;
  • enamel hypoplasia;
  • microstructure;
  • palaeopathology;
  • Pleistocene;
  • Rio Grande do Sul;
  • Toxodon

Enamel hypoplasia is characterized by reduction in the enamel thickness, resulting from a disruption of ameloblast activity due to systemic physiological stress. The euhypsodont teeth of Toxodon, a notoungulate from the Pleistocene of South America, often exhibit signs of enamel hypoplasia, in the form of continuous grooves or a series of pits where the enamel is thinner than in normal areas. These defects alternate with areas of normal enamel, and sometimes more than one form of enamel hypoplasia is present on the same tooth. This study analysed teeth of Toxodon from the Pleistocene Touro Passo Formation and the coastal plain of State of Rio Grande do Sul, Southern Brazil. Six types of enamel hypoplasia were observed. Upper teeth present mainly superficial grooves on the buccal surface, and the defects are less severe than those observed in the lower teeth. In the lower incisors, deep grooves with mesiodistal rows of pits were observed, showing clearly cyclical changes, which to a lesser degree, exist in all teeth. These changes are likely related to the continuous growth of euhypsodont teeth. Seven specimens were analysed under scanning electron microscopy and optical microscopy, which showed the occurrence of microstructural changes associated with the macroscopic enamel defects. Enamel underlying in the vicinity of hypoplastic defects was aprismatic and associated with prominent pathologic striae. These pathological findings might indicate that toxodonts were exposed to some stressing conditions or that their teeth were more easily abraded due to a change in diet items, related to shifting climatic conditions.