Mammalian Biology

, Volume 97, Issue 1, pp 104–111 | Cite as

The rumen washes off abrasives before heavy-duty chewing in ruminants

  • Jean-Michel Hatt
  • Daryl Codron
  • Dennis W. H. Müller
  • Nicole L. Ackermans
  • Louise F. Martin
  • Patrick R. Kircher
  • Jürgen Hummel
  • Marcus ClaussEmail author
Original investigation


Based on comparative mandibular anatomy, observations of chewing behaviour, chewing forces and dental microwear, it has been suggested that an additional effect of the ruminant digestive strategy could be a reduction of both the required chewing load and tooth wear ruminants are exposed to. This effect is hypothesized to be the result of digestion, mixing, and digesta sorting prior to regurgitation for rumination, which might both soften the material and wash off external abrasives such as sand, grit and dust. Putatively, these external abrasives would thus be trapped in the (fore)stomach and excreted via the faeces. We investigated the location of sand in the stomach of goats fed diets containing phytoliths and sand for several months. The contents of the stomach section from where rumination material is recruited were comparatively depleted of sand. Sand mainly accumulated in another stomach section, the abomasum, without causing clinical problems. A certain phytolith content should hence affect ruminants and non-ruminant herbivores somewhat alike; however, a certain external abrasives content should affect ruminants less than non-ruminants. Results from feeding experiments as well as tooth wear studies support this hypothesis, and caution against the default use of dental anatomy and wear as taxon-free environmental proxies in paleobiology.

Ruminant Rumen Tooth wear Chewing Rumination Hypsodonty 


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Copyright information

© Deutsche Gesellschaft für Säugetierkunde, e. V. DGS 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean-Michel Hatt
    • 1
  • Daryl Codron
    • 2
  • Dennis W. H. Müller
    • 1
  • Nicole L. Ackermans
    • 1
  • Louise F. Martin
    • 1
  • Patrick R. Kircher
    • 3
  • Jürgen Hummel
    • 4
  • Marcus Clauss
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Clinic for Zoo Animals, Exotic Pets and Wildlife, Vetsuisse FacultyUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of Zoology and EntomologyUniversity of the Free StateBloemfonteinSouth Africa
  3. 3.Clinic for Diagnostic Imaging, Vetsuisse FacultyUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  4. 4.Ruminant Nutrition, Department of Animal SciencesUniversity of GoettingenGoettingenGermany

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