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Journal Article

Forage silica and water content control dental surface texture in guinea pigs and provide implications for dietary reconstruction


Schulz-Kornas,  Ellen       
Max Planck Weizmann Center for integrative Archaeology and Anthropology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Winkler, D. E., Schulz-Kornas, E., Kaiser, T. M., Cuyper, A. D., Clauss, M., & Tütken, T. (2019). Forage silica and water content control dental surface texture in guinea pigs and provide implications for dietary reconstruction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(4), 1325-1330. doi:10.1073/pnas.1814081116.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0002-B913-8
Recent studies have shown that phytoliths are softer than dental enamel but still act as abrasive agents. Thus, phytolith content should be reflected in dental wear. Because native phytoliths show lower indentation hardness than phytoliths extracted by dry ashing, we propose that the hydration state of plant tissue will also affect dental abrasion. To assess this, we performed a controlled feeding experiment with 36 adult guinea pigs, fed exclusively with three different natural forages: lucerne, timothy grass, and bamboo with distinct phytolith/silica contents (lucerne <} grass {< bamboo). Each forage was fed in fresh or dried state for 3 weeks. We then performed 3D surface texture analysis (3DST) on the upper fourth premolar. Generally, enamel surface roughness increased with higher forage phytolith/silica content. Additionally, fresh and dry grass feeders displayed differences in wear patterns, with those of fresh grass feeders being similar to fresh and dry lucerne (phytolith-poor) feeders, supporting previous reports that “fresh grass grazers” show less abrasion than unspecialized grazers. Our results demonstrate that not only phytolith content but also properties such as water content can significantly affect plant abrasiveness, even to such an extent that wear patterns characteristic for dietary traits (browser–grazer differences) become indistinguishable.