Ancestral feeding state of ruminants reconsidered: earliest grazing adaptation claims a mixed condition for Cervidae

Author(s)Daniel DeMiguel, Mikael Fortelius, Beatriz Azanza and Jorge Morales
Year Published2008
JournalBMC Evolutionary Biology
Page Numbers1-13
Size1.12 MB
Abstract:

Background: Specialised leaf-eating is almost universally regarded as the ancestral state of all ruminants, yet little evidence can be cited in support of this assumption, apart from the fact that all early ruminants had low crowned cheek teeth. Instead, recent years have seen the emergence evidence contradicting the conventional view that low tooth crowns always indicate leaf-eating and high tooth crowns grass-eating.

Results: Here we report the results of two independent palaeodietary reconstructions for one of the earliest deer, Procervulus ginsburgi from the Early Miocene of Spain, suggesting that despite having lower tooth crowns than any living ruminant, this species included a significant proportion of grass in its diet.

Conclusion: The phylogenetic distribution of feeding styles strongly supports that leaf-grass mixed feeding was the original feeding style of deer, and that later dietary specialization on leaves or grass occurred independently in several lineages. Evidence for other ruminant clades suggests that facultative mixed feeding may in fact have been the primitive dietary state of the Ruminantia, which would have been morphologically expressed only under specific environmental factors.

Keywords: Cervidae, ruminants, palaeodiet, grazing, phylogenetic distribution, teeth
Authors: Daniel DeMiguel, Mikael Fortelius, Beatriz Azanza and Jorge Morales
Journal: BMC Evolutionary Biology


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