Dental microwear texture and anthropoid diets

Robert S. Scott, Mark F. Teaford, Peter S. Ungar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Scopus citations


Dental microwear has long been used as evidence concerning the diets of extinct species. Here, we present a comparative baseline series of dental microwear textures for a sample of 21 anthropoid primate species displaying interspecific and intraspecific dietary variability. Four dental microwear texture variables (complexity, anisotropy, textural fill volume, and heterogeneity) were computed based on scale-sensitive fractal analysis and high-resolution three-dimensional renderings of microwear surfaces collected using a white-light confocal profiler. The purpose of this analysis was to assess the extent to which these variables reflect variation in diet. Significant contrasts between species with diets known to include foods with differing material properties are clearly evident for all four microwear texture variables. In particular, species that consume more tough foods, such as leaves, tended to have high levels of anisotropy and low texture complexity. The converse was true for species including hard and brittle items in their diets either as staples or as fallback foods. These results reaffirm the utility of dental microwear texture analysis as an important tool in making dietary inferences based on fossil primate samples. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2012.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)551-579
Number of pages29
JournalAmerican journal of physical anthropology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • dental anthropology
  • dietary variability
  • food mechanical properties
  • primate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


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