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Feeding habits of ancient herbivores revealed by guinea-pig teeth
© Carol Yepes/Getty
The wear patterns on the teeth of guinea pigs fed different diets could help palaeontologists to reconstruct the feeding habits of fossilized plant eaters.
Both grit on plant leaves and silicate structures within the leaves contribute to the wear and tear of herbivores’ teeth. However, the relationship between the size and type of external grit and the patterns of dental wear are not well characterized.
A team that included researchers from Universität Hamburg fed guinea pigs food pellets containing different quantities, sizes and types of mineral abrasives such as clay, volcanic ash and sand.
They found that grit resulted in significantly more complex and rough wear patterns than the silicate components of plant. These patterns on fossilized teeth could reveal information about the type and size of grit eaten by ancient herbivores, and their grazing environment.
- PNAS 117, 22264–22273 (2020). doi: 10.1073/pnas.2008149117