Editor's Summary

4 August 2005

Once bitten


The measurement of the marks on fossilized teeth provides palaeontologists with direct evidence of what an individual ate in the past. The conventional approach to dental 'microwear' treats it as a set of features arbitrarily defined by individual observers on a two-dimensional image. A new approach eliminates some of the vagaries associated with the method by treating the worn surfaces as textures and measuring them in three dimensions. Use of this technique on a series of South African australopithecines suggests that the 'gracile' Australopithecus africanus ate more tough foods than Paranthropus robustus, and that Paranthropus ate more hard, brittle items as part of more varied diet.

LetterDental microwear texture analysis shows within-species diet variability in fossil hominins

Robert S. Scott, Peter S. Ungar, Torbjorn S. Bergstrom, Christopher A. Brown, Frederick E. Grine, Mark F. Teaford and Alan Walker

doi:10.1038/nature03822