Dental microwear texture analysis along reptile tooth rows: complex variation with non-dietary variables

Jordan Bestwick, David M Unwin, Donald M Henderson, Mark A Purnell

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Abstract

Dental microwear texture analysis (DMTA) is a powerful technique for reconstructing the diets of extant and extinct taxa. Few studies have investigated intraspecific microwear differences along with tooth rows and the influence of endogenous non-dietary variables on texture characteristics. Sampling teeth that are minimally affected by non-dietary variables is vital for robust dietary reconstructions, especially for taxa with non-occlusal (non-chewing) dentitions as no standardized sampling strategies currently exist. Here, we apply DMTA to 13 species of extant reptile (crocodilians and monitor lizards) to investigate intraspecific microwear differences along with tooth rows and to explore the influence of three non-dietary variables on exhibited differences: (i) tooth position, (ii) mechanical advantage, and (iii) tooth aspect ratio. Five species exhibited intraspecific microwear differences. In several crocodilians, the distally positioned teeth exhibited the 'roughest' textures, and texture characteristics correlated with all non-dietary variables. By contrast, the mesial teeth of the roughneck monitor (Varanus rudicollis) exhibited the 'roughest' textures, and texture characteristics did not correlate with aspect ratio. These results are somewhat consistent with how reptiles preferentially use their teeth during feeding. We argue that DMTA has the potential to track mechanical and behavioural differences in tooth use which should be taken into consideration in future dietary reconstructions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number201754
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Volume8
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Feb 2021

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