An early Pliocene fossil locality in the Canadian High Arctic preserves the remains of the extinct beaver Dipoides sp. (Castoridae, Rodentia) in association with an assemblage of fossil beaver-cut wood. The wood assemblage presents a first opportunity to investigate woodcutting behavior and ecological performance in an extinct castorid genus. This study compares woodcutting in Dipoides sp. with that of the modern beaver, Castor canadensis, using evidence from small-diameter cut sticks (i.e., sticks transected by parallel series of cut marks) in combination with behavioral observations of Castor woodcutting. During woodcutting both Castor and Dipoides used their incisors unilaterally; the upper incisor was pressed against the stick while the corresponding lower incisor cut. Cut marks were relatively larger for Castor than Dipoides (scaled to incisor size). Compared with Dipoides, Castor more frequently used a cutting strategy that minimized the number of cuts needed to transect a stick (e.g., clipping as opposed to chip removal). Taken together, the behavioral evidence suggests that ecological cutting performance was lower for Dipoides than Castor.
Department of Biology

Rybczynski, N. (2008). Woodcutting behavior in beavers (Castoridae, Rodentia): Estimating ecological performance in a modern and a fossil taxon. Paleobiology, 34(3), 389–402. doi:10.1666/06085.1