Date of Graduation

5-2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Anthropology (MA)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Anthropology

Advisor

Peter S. Ungar

Committee Member

Luke Delezene

Second Committee Member

Joseph M. Plavcan

Third Committee Member

Thomas Paradise

Keywords

Social sciences; Earth sciences; African ecology; Dental microwear; Muridae; Paleoenvironmental reconstruction; Scale-sensitive fractal analysis

Abstract

Dental microwear has been shown to reflect food preferences and habitat in extant vertebrates, and its analysis has been applied to fossil assemblages to infer paleodiet and paleoenvironment. Such reconstructions are, of course, only as good as the extant baseline used to infer relationships between wear pattern and diet/habitat. This study tests, through dental microwear texture analysis, the potential of modern rodent lower incisors to reveal those relationships, and evaluates the extent to which effects of diet and habitat can be parsed from the signal. Microwear texture profiles were created for individual lower rodent incisors (n=430) using confocal profilometry and quantified using scale-sensitive fractal analysis. The museum sample used in this study includes omnivorous, herbivorous, and frugivorous species collected from African desert, savanna, woodland, and rainforest habitats. The effect of substrate (terrestrial versus arboreal) is also analyzed. Increasingly, attention had been directed toward rodents as a source of paleoenvironmental data due to their discrete home ranges and their ubiquity and abundance in many fossil and archaeological assemblages. Results presented here suggest that rodent incisor microwear pattern reflects different habitat types, through environmental factors or food availabilities, and holds potential as a proxy for paleoenvironmental reconstruction.

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