Incisor morphology reflects diet in caviomorph rodents

Croft, D. A., K. Niemi, and A. Franco

Rodents are important components of most modern ecosystems. Understanding their roles in paleocommunities requires robust methods for inferring diet and other autecological characteristics. This pilot study tests whether a relationship between incisor morphology and diet exists among extant rodents that might be used to infer diets of extinct species. We focused on 11 genera of caviomorph rodents classified in 3 dietary categories: fruit–leaf, fruit–seed, and grass–leaf. For each genus 6 variables describing morphology of the upper incisor were measured on 5 specimens. Data were analyzed using a series of stepwise discriminant analyses. Discriminant analyses correctly predicted diets of nearly all training cases (~95%) using 4 incisor characteristics. Five additional species (1 caviomorph and 4 noncaviomorph), treated as unknowns, also were classified correctly. Jackknife analyses correctly predicted diets of approximately two-thirds of training cases. Our study indicates that incisor morphology is related to diet in extant caviomorph rodents. Incisor data therefore might be useful for inferring diets of extinct species.

Read the full article here

Croft, D. A., K. Niemi, and A. Franco. 2011. Incisor morphology reflects diet in caviomorph rodents. Journal of Mammalogy 92(4):871-879.