• Dental microwear texture analysis as a tool for dietary discrimination in elasmobranchs

      McLennan, Laura J.; Purnell, Mark A.; University of Leicester; University of Derby (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2021-01-28)
      As abundant and widespread predators, elasmobranchs play influential roles in food-web dynamics of marine communities. Clearly, these trophic interactions have significant implications for fisheries management and marine conservation, yet elasmobranch diet is relatively understudied; for the majority of species little or no quantitative dietary data exist. This reflects the difficulties of direct observation of feeding and stomach contents analysis in wild elasmobranchs. Here, by quantifying the 3D surface textures that develop on tooth surfaces as a consequence of feeding, we show that tooth microwear varies with diet in elasmobranchs, providing a new tool for dietary analysis. The technique can be applied to small samples and individuals with no gut contents, and thus offers a way to reduce the impact on wild elasmobranch populations of analysing their dietary ecology, especially relevant in conservation of endangered species. Furthermore, because microwear accumulates over longer periods of time, analysis of texture overcomes the ‘snapshot bias’ of stomach contents analysis. Microwear texture analysis has the potential to be a powerful tool, complementing existing techniques such as stable isotope analysis, for dietary analysis in living and extinct elasmobranchs.