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Naturwissenschaften. 2008 Sep;95(9):831-8. doi: 10.1007/s00114-008-0391-y. Epub 2008 Jun 10.

How could sympatric megaherbivores coexist? Example of niche partitioning within a proboscidean community from the Miocene of Europe.

Author information

1
UMR 5125 PEPS - University Claude Bernard Lyon 1, 69622 Villeurbanne, France. ivan.calandra@pepsmail.univ-lyon1.fr

Abstract

Although low in diversity, megaherbivores (mammals weighting over 10(3) kg) and especially proboscideans have a powerful impact on the structure and dynamics of present-day ecosystems. During the Neogene (23 to 2.6 Ma) of Europe, the diversity and geographic distribution of these megaherbivores was much greater. Nonetheless, their role in past ecosystems is unclear. Nutrition is one of the main bonds between organisms and their environment. Therefore, the ecology of organisms can be inferred from their dietary habits. The present study is aimed at characterizing the feeding habits of diverse megaherbivores through dental microwear analyses. This method was applied on cheek teeth of three sympatric species of proboscideans from the middle/late Miocene of the Molasse Basin in Southern Germany: Gomphotherium subtapiroideum, Gomphotherium steinheimense, and Deinotherium giganteum. The microwear signatures are significantly different between these taxa, suggesting differences in feeding habits and ecological niches within a woodland environment. D. giganteum probably browsed on dicotyledonous foliages whereas the two species of gomphotheres were neither strict grazers nor strict browsers and instead probably fed on a large spectrum of vegetal resources. The differences of occlusal molar morphology between the two gomphotheres are supported by the dental microwear pattern. Indeed, G. subtapiroideum probably ingested more abrasive material than G. steinheimense. Thus, our results suggest that these proboscideans did not compete for food resources.

PMID:
18542904
DOI:
10.1007/s00114-008-0391-y
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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