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Integr Zool. 2016 Mar;11(2):111-27. doi: 10.1111/1749-4877.12188.

Dental microwear of sympatric rodent species sampled across habitats in southern Africa: Implications for environmental influence.

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Environmental Dynamics Program, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA.
Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, USA.
National Museum and University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa.
Department of Anthropology, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA.


Dental microwear textures have proven to be a valuable tool for reconstructing the diets of a wide assortment of fossil vertebrates. Nevertheless, some studies have recently questioned the efficacy of this approach, suggesting that aspects of habitat unrelated to food preference, especially environmental grit load, might have a confounding effect on microwear patterning that obscures the diet signal. Here we evaluate this hypothesis by examining microwear textures of 3 extant sympatric rodent species that vary in diet breadth and are found in a variety of habitat types: Mastomys coucha, Micaelamys namaquensis and Rhabdomys pumilio. We sample each of these species from 3 distinct environmental settings in southern Africa that differ in rainfall and vegetative cover: Nama-Karoo shrublands (semi-desert) and Dry Highveld grasslands in the Free State Province of South Africa, and Afromontane (wet) grasslands in the highlands of Lesotho. While differences between habitat types are evident for some of the species, inconsistency in the pattern suggests that the microwear signal is driven by variation in foods eaten rather than grit-level per se. It is clear that, at least for species and habitats sampled in the current study, environmental grit load does not swamp diet-related microwear signatures.


diet; grit; tooth wear

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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