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What can incisor microwear reveal about the diet of ungulates?
We analyzed dental wear patterns on molars and incisors of modern plains zebra (Equus quagga) from a single locality in Kenya and from a single breeding population. Our objective was to explore the potential of incisor microwear in terms of elucidating ungulate diet as well as the various chewing patterns of different incisors and molar teeth among various age classes. We found significant inter-tooth variation of the microwear signal among different incisors and, not unexpectedly, that incisors do not reveal the same dietary signal as molar teeth. Such differences are related here to differential chewing forces (shearing vs compression) along the tooth row. We find no significant differences among various zebra age classes in terms of their mesowear and microwear patterns, providing additional evidence that the mesowear signal is consistent and stable throughout the adult lifespan of an individual. These findings indicate that there is no age segregation in terms of access to food resources in this particular breeding population.
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