March 2022 : publication The Anatomical Record
Experimental assessment of the relationship between diet and mandibular morphology using a pig model: New insights for paleodietary reconstructions
Dietary habits exert significant selective pressures on anatomical structures in animals, leading to substantial morphological adaptations. Yet, the relationships between the mandible and diet are still unclear, raising issues for paleodietary reconstructions notably. To assess the impact of food hardness and size on morphological structures, we used an experimental baseline using a model based on the domestic pig, an omnivorous mammal with bunodont, thick-enameled dentition, and chewing movements similar to hominids. We hypothesized that the consumption of different types of seeds would result in substantial differences in the morphology of the mandible despite similar overall diets. The experiment was conducted on four groups of juvenile pigs fed with mixed cereal and soy flours. The control group received only flours. We supplemented the four others with either 10 hazelnuts, 30 hazelnuts, 30% barley seeds, or 20% corn kernels per day. We investigated the shape differences between the controlled-fed groups using three-dimensional geometric morphometrics. Our results provide strong evidence that the supplemental consumption of a significant amount of seeds for a short period (95 days) substantially modify the mandibular morphology of pigs. Our analyses suggest that this shape differentiation is due to the size of the seeds, requiring high and repeated bite force, rather than their hardness. These results provide new perspectives for the use of mandibular morphology as a proxy in paleodietary reconstructions complementing dental microwear textures analyses.
Neaux D, Louail M, Ferchaud S, Surault J, Merceron G – Experimental assessment of the relationship between diet and mandibular morphology using a pig model: new insights for paleodietary reconstructions – Anat Rec. 2022. – https://doi.org/10.1002/ar.24895