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J R Soc Interface. 2012 Sep 7;9(74):2225-33. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2012.0140. Epub 2012 Apr 4.

Quantitative three-dimensional microtextural analyses of tooth wear as a tool for dietary discrimination in fishes.

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Department of Geology, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK.


Resource polymorphisms and competition for resources are significant factors in speciation. Many examples come from fishes, and cichlids are of particular importance because of their role as model organisms at the interface of ecology, development, genetics and evolution. However, analysis of trophic resource use in fishes can be difficult and time-consuming, and for fossil fish species it is particularly problematic. Here, we present evidence from cichlids that analysis of tooth microwear based on high-resolution (sub-micrometre scale) three-dimensional data and new ISO standards for quantification of surface textures provides a powerful tool for dietary discrimination and investigation of trophic resource exploitation. Our results suggest that three-dimensional approaches to analysis offer significant advantages over two-dimensional operator-scored methods of microwear analysis, including applicability to rough tooth surfaces that lack distinct scratches and pits. Tooth microwear textures develop over a longer period of time than is represented by stomach contents, and analyses based on textures are less prone to biases introduced by opportunistic feeding. They are more sensitive to subtle dietary differences than isotopic analysis. Quantitative textural analysis of tooth microwear has a useful role to play, complementing existing approaches, in trophic analysis of fishes-both extant and extinct.

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