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Chewing their way to success
Date:10/28/2013

sps on their teeth. Their ancestors, like other related rodents such as hamsters and gerbils, only have two rows, as do humans.

To reconstruct this series of evolutionary events, the scientists studied several hundred teeth belonging to extant or extinct rodents at the European Synchrotron (ESRF) in Grenoble. The team applied methods originally used in map-making to analyze 3D digital models of the dental morphology of these species. Comparison of the dental structures of present day and fossil rodents enabled them to determine the diet of the extinct species. In addition, studying the wear on their teeth allowed them to reconstruct the chewing motion, either directed forwardly or obliquely, of these animals.

The study traces the way in which evolution progresses by trial and error, ending up with a morphological combination that lies behind the astonishing evolutionary success of an animal family.

The innovative methods used by the researchers to analyze and compare masticatory systems could be used to study dietary changes in other extinct mammals. This might prove to be especially interesting with regard to primates, since, before the appearance of hominids, primates underwent several dietary changes that affected their subsequent evolutionary history.


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Contact: Claus Habfast
claus.habfast@esrf.fr
33-666-662-384
European Synchrotron Radiation Facility
Source:Eurekalert  

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