MicroWeaR: A new R package for dental microwear analysis

Flavia Strani*, Antonio Profico, Giorgio Manzi, Diana Pushkina, Pasquale Raia, Raffaele Sardella, Daniel DeMiguel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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 (a) sample the marks, (b) classify features into categories as pits or scratches and then into their respective subcategories (large pits, coarse scratches, etc.), (c) generate an output table with summary information, and (d) 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 electron microscope, and other a Pleistocene cervid acquired by a stereomicroscope.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7022-7030
Number of pages9
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jun 2018


  • diet reconstruction
  • open-source software
  • paleoecology
  • R package
  • tooth microwear

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