Dental microwear texture as a proxy for diet in xenarthrans

Publication Title

Journal of Mammalogy

Publication Date


Document Type





carnivora, dental microwear, dentin, dietary niche, ecology, enamel, xenarthra


Biology | Geology


Abstract Most dental microwear texture studies to date have focused on enamel surfaces. However, for xenarthran microwear we must, in effect, “reinvent the wheel,” because adult xenarthrans lack enamel. Dentin is softer than enamel and may record microwear differently. Thus, we aim to determine if dental microwear texture analysis (DMTA, which quantifies microwear in 3 dimensions) of dentin can yield biologically meaningful results by asking: do dentin and enamel in other eutherians record microwear texture the same way; and can DMTA differentiate between extant xenarthrans with different diets? We analyzed the carnassials of Florida panthers (Puma concolor coryi, n = 14), which have functional dentin and enamel, and found differences in texture fill volume and heterogeneity, suggesting that enamel and dentin DMTA cannot be directly compared. Next, we analyzed the teeth of sloths (Bradypus variegatus, n = 12; Choloepus hoffmanni, n = 9) and the 9-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus, n = 12), which differ in 2 attributes (surface complexity and fill volume) associated with food or abrasive properties. Other DMTA attributes show no differences between trophic groups, suggesting that dentin and enamel may differ in types of texture attributes that separate taxa by diet.


American Society of Mammalogists