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Aging Antelope
It's All in the Teeth

Tooth Identification Basics

Pronghorn have two groups of teeth. The front teeth, or incisors, are used for collecting food. The back teeth or cheek teeth -- molars and premolars -- are used to chew and grind food. Between the incisors and molars is an open space along the jaw that has no teeth.

(Note: In all photos, black line indicates the gum line.)

JPG -- Basic pronghorn jaw
Your basic pronghorn jaw. Incisors in the front, molars and premolars in the back, and a big space in between.

Front Teeth (Incisors):

When a pronghorn is 14-16 months old, the central two front teeth (incisors) are replaced. The rest of the front teeth -- lateral incisors and canine teeth -- are all replaced by age 4½. Unlike horses, pronghorn do not have upper incisors.

JPG -- Front teeth of 4-month-old fawn JPG -- Front teeth of 2 1/2 yr old JPG -- Front teeth of 4 yr old

Cheek Teeth

Premolars: The first three teeth on each side of the jaw are called premolars. Pronghorn grow two sets of premolars. The first set appears in fawns and lasts until the animal is about 2½ years old, when permanent adult premolars push out baby premolar teeth. An important characteristic of the first set of premolars in that the third premolar has three crowns or cusps. When the permanent teeth come in, all premolars have just two cusps.

Molars: The four, fifth, and sixth cheek teeth are molars. Pronghorn grow one set of molars. Generally, four-month-old pronghorn have only one molar when they enter the fall hunting season. Therefore, four-month-old animals usually have only four cheek teeth. By 1½ years of age -- the second fall -- the second and third molars have erupted through the gum, though the last cusp of the third molar is still below the gum line. All three molars are fully erupted by 2½ years; however, permanent premolars do not erupt until 3½ years.

The vast majority of pronghorn in North Dakota are 3½ years old or younger. To determine the age of animals in older age classes requires a closer look at tooth wear.

JPG -- Cheek teeth of 4 1/2 yr old
Cheek teeth of a 4½ year old pronghorn. Premolars and molars are indicated. Each permanent premolar and molar has two cusps or crowns, except the third molar, which has three cusps. The cusps on the lower jaw form a ridge of sharp points on the side nearest the tongue, called lingual crests.

JPG -- Deep pits
Deep pits (infundibula) are found in the cusp of molariform teeth. The white portion is enamel; the dark portion is dentine.

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