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THE ROLE OF TOOTH ENAMEL MECHANICAL PROPERTIES IN PRIMATE DIETARY ADAPTATION

Published

Author(s)

Paul Constantino, James J. Lee, Yvonne B. Gerbig, Adam Hartstone-Rose, Mauricio Talebi, Brian R. Lawn, Peter Lucas

Abstract

Primate teeth adapt to the physical properties of foods in a variety of ways including changes in occlusal morphology, enamel thickness, and overall size. We conducted a comparative study of extant primates to examine whether their teeth also adapt to foods through variation in the mechanical properties of the enamel. Nanoindentation techniques were used to map profiles of elastic modulus and hardness across tooth sections from the enamel–dentin junction to the outer enamel surface in a broad sample of primates including apes, Old World monkeys, New World monkeys, and lemurs. The measured data profiles feature considerable overlap among species, indicating a high degree of commonality in material properties. These results indicate that differences in the load-bearing capacity of primate molar teeth are more a function of morphology—particularly tooth size and enamel thickness—than of underlying material properties.
Citation
American Journal of Physical Anthropology
Volume
148
Created June 27, 2012, Updated November 10, 2018