, Volume 96, Issue 4, pp 537–542 | Cite as

Dental microwear patterns of extant and extinct Muridae (Rodentia, Mammalia): ecological implications

  • Helder Gomes Rodrigues
  • Gildas Merceron
  • Laurent Viriot
Short Communication


Extant species of Muridae occupy a wide array of habitats and have diverse dietary habits. Consequently, their dental microwear patterns represent a potential clue to better understand the paleoecology of their extinct relatives, which are abundant in many Old World Neogene localities. In this study, dental microwear is investigated for specimens of 17 extant species of murine and deomyine rodents in order to test the reliability of this method and infer dietary preferences on the fossil species Saïdomys afarensis. This extinct form comes from a mid-Pliocene site (AL 327) located at the Hadar Formation (Ethiopia) known to have delivered many hominid specimens of Australopithecus afarensis. A significant correlation between microwear patterns and diet is detected. Thus, grass, fruit, and insect eaters display, respectively, high amounts of fine scratches, wide scratches, and large pits. Moreover, some aspects of the paleoecology of S. afarensis, including feeding habits, could be assessed in regard to its dental microwear pattern. Indeed, it probably had feeding habits similar to that of living grass eaters. These results concur with the presence of open to woodland areas covered by an herbaceous vegetal layer, including monocotyledons, in the vicinity of this mid-Pliocene locality.


Murid rodents Dental microwear Paleoecology Saïdomys afarensis 



We are grateful to J. Cuisin for the loan of the murid rodent material from the collections of the MNHN of Paris and B. Marandat for the loan of fossil specimens from Hadar from the collections of Vertebrate Paleontology (University of Montpellier II). We also wish to acknowledge M. Brunet and P. Vignaud (iPHEP of the Poitiers University) for encouraging this research. We are grateful to X. Valentin and A. Bernet for the access to the casting material, to C. Blondel, J.-J. Jaeger, and L. Marivaux for discussions, and L. Foley-Ducrocq and A. Ramdarshan for the English improvement. Studies of the fossil material were supported by the NSF RHOI “Small Mammals” (Award #BCS-0321893). This study was also partially funded by a fellowship from the Humboldt foundation to GM. We also thank the three anonymous reviewers that improved the quality of this manuscript. Publication ISEM-UMR 5554.

Supplementary material

114_2008_501_MOESM1_ESM.doc (52 kb)
Supplementary material 1 Taxonomy and ecological data of extant murids. (In bold letters: main components of their diet) (DOC 52.0 KB)
114_2008_501_MOESM2_ESM.doc (92 kb)
Supplementary material 2 Pair-wise comparisons between living and fossil species through their dietary class. Significance at α = 0.05 is indicated in gray for Fisher’s LSD tests and in black for both LSD and HSD tests. (N fs—fine scratches, N ws—wide scratches, N sp—small pits, N lp—large pits) (DOC 92.5 KB)
114_2008_501_MOESM3_ESM.doc (384 kb)
Supplementary material 3 Summary statistics of the dental microwear variables of the extant murid specimens and the fossil ones (N fs—number of fine scratches, N ws—wide scratches, N sp-small pits, N lp—large pits) (DOC 384 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helder Gomes Rodrigues
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gildas Merceron
    • 3
  • Laurent Viriot
    • 2
    • 4
  1. 1.Laboratoire de Paléontologie-Paléobiologie-PhylogénieInstitut des Sciences de l’Évolution de l’Université Montpellier IIMontpellier cedex 5France
  2. 2.iPHEP: Institut International de Paléoprimatologie, Paléontologie Humaine: Evolution et Paléoenvironnements, UMR CNRS 6046; Faculté SFAUniversité de PoitiersPoitiers CedexFrance
  3. 3.PaléoEnvironnements et PaléobioSphère (PEPS), UMR CNRS 5125Université Lyon 1Villeurbanne CedexFrance
  4. 4.Team “Evo-Devo of Vertebrate Dentition”, Institut de Génomique Fonctionnelle de LyonUniversité de LyonLyon Cedex 07France

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