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Another one bites the dust: faecal silica levels in large herbivores correlate with high-crowned teeth

Institut für Tierwissenschaften, Universität Bonn, Bonn, Germany.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (Impact Factor: 5.29). 11/2010; 278(1712):1742-7. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2010.1939
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The circumstances of the evolution of hypsodonty (= high-crowned teeth) are a bone of contention. Hypsodonty is usually linked to diet abrasiveness, either from siliceous phytoliths (monocotyledons) or from grit (dusty environments). However, any empirical quantitative approach testing the relation of ingested silica and hypsodonty is lacking. In this study, faecal silica content was quantified as acid detergent insoluble ash and used as proxy for silica ingested by large African herbivores of different digestive types, feeding strategies and hypsodonty levels. Separate sample sets were used for the dry (n = 15 species) and wet (n = 13 species) season. Average faecal silica contents were 17-46 g kg(-1) dry matter (DM) for browsing and 52-163 g kg(-1) DM for grazing herbivores. No difference was detected between the wet (97.5 ± 14.4 g kg(-1) DM) and dry season (93.5 ± 13.7 g kg(-1) DM) faecal silica. In a phylogenetically controlled analysis, a strong positive correlation (dry season r = 0.80, p < 0.0005; wet season r = 0.74, p < 0.005) was found between hypsodonty index and faecal silica levels. While surprisingly our results do not indicate major seasonal changes in silica ingested, the correlation of faecal silica and hypsodonty supports a scenario of a dominant role of abrasive silica in the evolution of high-crowned teeth.

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