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PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e56167. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0056167. Epub 2013 Feb 6.

Dietary abrasiveness is associated with variability of microwear and dental surface texture in rabbits.

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Biocenter Grindel and Zoological Museum, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany.


Dental microwear and 3D surface texture analyses are useful in reconstructing herbivore diets, with scratches usually interpreted as indicators of grass dominated diets and pits as indicators of browse. We conducted feeding experiments with four groups of rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) each fed a different uniform, pelleted diet (lucerne, lucerne & oats, grass & oats, grass). The lowest silica content was measured in the lucerne and the highest in the grass diet. After 25 weeks of exposure to the diets, dental castings were made of the rabbit's lower molars. Occlusal surfaces were then investigated using dental microwear and 3D areal surface texture analysis. In terms of traditional microwear, we found our hypothesis supported, as the grass group showed a high proportion of (long) "scratches" and the lucerne group a high proportion of "pits". Regardless of the uniform diets, variability of microwear and surface textures was higher when silica content was low. A high variability in microwear and texture analysis thus need not represent dietary diversity, but can also be related to a uniform, low-abrasion diet. The uniformity or variability of microwear/texture analysis results thus might represent varying degrees of abrasion and attrition rather than a variety of diet items per se.

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