MicroWeaR: a new R package for dental microwear analysis

Strani, F., Profico, A., Manzi, G., Pushkina, D., Raia, P., Sardella, R., DeMiguel, D. (2018). MicroWeaR: a new R package for dental microwear analysis. Ecology and Evolution 7: 1-9.

Mastication of dietary items with different mechanical properties leaves distinctive microscopic marks on the surface of tooth enamel. The inspection of such marks (dental microwear analysis) is informative about the dietary habitus in fossil as well as in modern species. Dental microwear analysis relies on the morphology, abundance, direction and distribution of these microscopic marks. We present a new freely-available software implementation, MicroWeaR, that, compared to traditional dental microwear tools, allows more rapid, observer-error free, and inexpensive quantification and classification of all the microscopic marks (also including for the first time different subtypes of scars). Classification parameters and graphical rendering of the output are fully settable by the user. MicroWeaR includes functions to (i) sample the marks, (ii) classify features into categories as pits or scratches and then into their respective subcategories (large pits, coarse scratches, etc.), (iii) generate an output table with summary information, and (iv) obtain a visual surface-map where marks are highlighted. We provide a tutorial to reproduce the steps required to perform microwear analysis and to test tool functionalities. Then, we present two case studies to illustrate how MicroWeaR works. The first regards a Miocene great ape obtained from through environmental Scanning scanning Electron electron Microscopemicroscopy, and the other a Pleistocene cervid acquired by a stereomicroscope.

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