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Dental microwear texture analysis as a tool for dietary discrimination in elasmobranchs

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posted on 2021-06-18, 14:59 authored by Laura J. McLennan, Mark A. Purnell
As abundant and widespread predators, elasmobranchs play influential roles in food-web dynamics of marine communities. Clearly, these trophic interactions have significant implications for fisheries management and marine conservation, yet elasmobranch diet is relatively understudied; for the majority of species little or no quantitative dietary data exist. This reflects the difficulties of direct observation of feeding and stomach contents analysis in wild elasmobranchs. Here, by quantifying the 3D surface textures that develop on tooth surfaces as a consequence of feeding, we show that tooth microwear varies with diet in elasmobranchs, providing a new tool for dietary analysis. The technique can be applied to small samples and individuals with no gut contents, and thus offers a way to reduce the impact on wild elasmobranch populations of analysing their dietary ecology, especially relevant in conservation of endangered species. Furthermore, because microwear accumulates over longer periods of time, analysis of texture overcomes the ‘snapshot bias’ of stomach contents analysis. Microwear texture analysis has the potential to be a powerful tool, complementing existing techniques such as stable isotope analysis, for dietary analysis in living and extinct elasmobranchs.

Funding

NERC Grant NE/G018189/1

Sylvester Bradley grant of the Palaeontological Association

History

Citation

Sci Rep 11, 2444 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-81258-9

Author affiliation

Centre for Palaeobiology Research, School of Geography, Geology and the Environment

Version

  • VoR (Version of Record)

Published in

Scientific Reports

Volume

11

Pagination

2444

Publisher

Nature Publishing Group

issn

2045-2322

Acceptance date

2020-12-18

Copyright date

2021

Available date

2021-06-18

Language

en

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