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Extinct predatory marine reptiles constitute a paraphyletic group that includes ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, placodonts, and mososaurs. These animals evolved numerous feeding strategies to exploit a diverse prey base that included heavily armored ammonites and belemnoids, and softer-bodied bony fishes, sharks, squid, and other marine reptiles. Judy Massare's seminal work correlating tooth form and prey preference of Mesozoic marine reptiles suggests morphologic analysis of teeth has significant utility in inferring predator-prey dynamics. Three extreme feeding types within predatory marine Mesozoic reptiles include crush-type, cut-type, and pierce-type feeders.
This project was aimed at establishing (for the first time) if differences in dental microwear patterns are correlated to extreme feeding types in the predatory marine Mesozoic reptiles. I observed that total numbers of microwear objects, pitting, and gouging all correlated well with diet as predicted by tooth shape. Taxa with crush-type dentition (e.g., Globidens) had significantly more overall wear, pitting, and gouging than cut- and pierce-type feeders. Similarly, cut-type feeders had more wear than pierce-type feeders. These results are consistent with wear that would be expected from consuming prey with hard armoring (crush-type feeders), flesh and bone (cut-type feeders), and soft bodies (pierce-type feeders). Scratch microwear patterns were poor at predicting diet and feeding type.