October 2021 : publication Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology

Dental microwear textures differ in pigs with overall similar diets but fed with different seeds

The thick-enameled, bunodont dentition shared by most early hominins has traditionally been interpreted as reflecting durophagy, especially in the robust genus Paranthropus. However, subsequent works on dental microwear textures (DMT) and biogeochemical compositions have challenged this hypothesis. Some authors argued that their robust morphology might have been driven by the consumption of mechanically challenging resources during periods of food scarcity. An experimental baseline using a model taxon with bunodont, thick-enameled cheek teeth, could help better interpret DMT and test hypotheses regarding the consumption of mechanically challenging foods that could be fallback foods. Besides, earlier studies have shown that DMT can track subtle dietary variations in extant taxa. This study aims at testing the hypothesis that the consumption of various seeds has an impact on DMT of bunodont mammals despite similar overall diets. Trials were conducted on four groups of domestic pigs (Sus scrofa) all fed on mixed cereal and soy flours: the control group received only flours (n = 12), and the three others were supplemented with either 20% corn kernels (n = 6), 30% barley seeds (n = 5), or 10 hazelnuts in shell per day (n = 6). We studied phases I and II facets on first molars and on fourth deciduous premolars, and applied a subsampling surface strategy to identify discriminative parameters among dietary groups. Principal Component Analyses show that DMT differ between pigs fed on different types of seeds. Our results also demonstrate that combining both crushing and shearing facets into analyses improves dietary discriminations. This study shows that variables that contribute most to dietary discriminations as selected from the subsampling strategy are mainly height parameters. These results thus support the idea that the consumption of seeds has an impact on the relief of surface textures.

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Margot Louail, Stéphane Ferchaud, Antoine Souron, Axelle E.C. Walker, Gildas Merceron – Dental microwear textures differ in pigs with overall similar diets but fed with different seeds – Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology : Vol. 572, 110415. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2021.110415

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