Journal of Mammalian Evolution

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 163–181 | Cite as

Dental Microwear Texture Analysis of Varswater Bovids and Early Pliocene Paleoenvironments of Langebaanweg, Western Cape Province, South Africa

  • Peter S. UngarEmail author
  • Gildas Merceron
  • Robert S. Scott
Original Paper


The extensive early Pliocene mammalian assemblages at Langebaanweg hold the potential to provide important information about paleoenvironments of the southwestern tip of Africa, an area that today consititutes the Fynbos Biome. We here add to a growing body of literature on the paleoenviornments of the site with an examination of dental microwear textures of bovids from the Varswater Formation. Microwear texture analysis is a new, automated and repeatable approach that measures whole surfaces in three dimensions without observer error. A study of extant ruminants indicates that grazers have more anisotropic microwear surface textures, whereas browsers have more complex microwear surface textures. Fossil bovids recovered from the Muishond Fontein Pelletal Phosphorite Member vary in their microwear textures, with some taxa falling within the extant browser range, some closer to extant grazers, and others in between. These results are consistent with scenarios suggesting mosaic habitats including fynbos vegetation, some (probably C3) grasses, and woodland elements when these fossils were accumulated.


Dental microwear Bovid diets Langebaanweg paleoecology Paleoenvironments 



We thank Dave Roberts, James Brink, Kaye Reed and Matt Sponheimer for discussions related to this project. We also thank Thalassa Matthews and Richard Smith for their kind invitation to participate in the workshop that prompted us to conduct the research described in this paper. We are grateful to the reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript, to Blaine Schubert for his help collecting molds of many of the extant specimens and to Margaret Avery and Graham Avery for allowing us to study the fossil materials in their care. Research described in this paper was funded by US National Science Foundation Grants BCS 0222176, 0315157 and 0510038 and a Fyssen Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship to GM.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter S. Ungar
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gildas Merceron
    • 2
  • Robert S. Scott
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of ArkansasFayettevilleUSA
  2. 2.Biozentrum Grindel and Zoological MuseumUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany

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