The diet of worms: An analysis of mole dental microwear

Mary T. Silcox, Mark F. Teaford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


We compared microwear from shearing facets of lower molars from Parascalops breweri (the hairy-tailed mole) and Scapanus orarius (the coast mole) with that from other small mammal species including a tenrec, a hedgehog, 3 primates, and 2 bats. The 2 mole species exhibit a distinct microwear pattern that is characterized by many short, narrow scratches, and relatively few pits. Although the molars of the streaked tenrec (Hemicentetes nigriceps) differ profoundly in morphology from those of moles, they show a very similar pattern of microwear on their shearing facets. This common pattern (missing in the rest of the comparison sample) is likely a product of the importance of earthworms in the diets of both H. nigriceps and the moles and is plausibly explained by the interaction between teeth and soil from the inside and outside of earthworms. These results may be useful in interpreting microwear patterns in fossil mammals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)804-814
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of mammalogy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Dental microwear
  • Hemicentetes
  • Moles
  • Parascalops
  • Scapanus
  • Tenrecs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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