Validation on modern communities of ungulates
To explore modern communities of mammals through the DMTA is essential to validate what has been found out through the monitored food trials. In the course of the TRIDENT project, several examples have been explored.
Here are shown the results of the case study of the Bialowieza communities of ruminants including the European bison. Białowieża Forest in Eastern Poland is a unique ecosystem (see Figure). It is the only place in Europe where red deer, roe deer, moose and bison can be studied in their native environment. In addition, the inner forest is a mixed forest free of human activity. The moose is a leaf browser, the roe deer a leaf/fruit browser, the red deer a mixed feeder, and the European bison is still a matter of debate. A large bone collection gathered over the last century includes 2,000 skulls and jaws. The analysis on the three cervids from Białowieża mirrors their browsing feeding habits. Indeed, there is no significant differences in dental microwear textures between browsers (moose and roe deer) and mixed feeders (red deer). The results on the fourth ruminant are unequivocal: the European bison is not grazer but a mixed feeder highly engaged in browsing. Furthermore, through dental microwear texture analysis, the high plasticity in feeding behavior of the European bison depending on the seasons was tracked (Merceron et al., 2014).
Figure. The wild ruminants of the Białowieża Primeval Forest is the richest group of these animals in Europe. There, the dental microwear textures of the cervids and the European bison track an important food resources overlapping.