Minimizing inter-microscope variability in dental microwear texture analysis

Samuel Arman, Peter Ungar, Christopher Brown, Larisa DeSantis, Christopher Schmidt, Gavin Prideaux

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    62 Citations (Scopus)


    Acommon approach to dental microwear texture analysis (DMTA) uses confocal profilometry in concert with scale-sensitive fractal analysis to help understand the diets of extinct mammals. One of the main benefits ofDMTAover other methods is the repeatable, objective manner of data collection. This repeatability, however, is threatened by variation in results ofDMTAof the same dental surfaces yielded by different microscopes. Here we compareDMTAdata of five species of kangaroos measured on seven profilers of varying specifications. Comparison between microscopes confirms that intermicroscope differences are present, but we show that deployment of a number of automated treatments to remove measurement noise can help minimize inter-microscope differences. Applying these same treatments to a published homininDMTAdataset shows that they alter some significant differences between dietary groups. Minimising microscope variability while maintaining interspecific dietary differences requires then that these factors are balanced in determining appropriate treatments. The process outlined here offers a solution for allowing comparison of data between microscopes, which is essential for ongoing DMTA research. In addition, the process undertaken, including considerations of other elements ofDMTAprotocols also promises to streamline methodology, remove measurement noise and in doing so, optimize recovery of a reliable dietary signature.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number024007
    Number of pages23
    JournalSurface Topography: Metrology and Properties
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016


    • Confocal profiling
    • Mammals
    • Paleodiet
    • Scale sensitive fractal analysis


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