Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers Test Canine Tooth Strength for Clues to Behavior of Early Human Ancestors

27.06.2008
Research funded by the National Science Foundation and led by University of Arkansas anthropologist Michael Plavcan takes us one step closer to understanding the relationship between canine teeth, body size and the lives of primates.

Measuring and testing the teeth of living primates could provide a window into the behavior of the earliest human ancestors, based on their fossilized remains. Research funded by the National Science Foundation and led by University of Arkansas anthropologist Michael Plavcan takes us one step closer to understanding the relationship between canine teeth, body size and the lives of primates.

In an article published in American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Plavcan and colleague Christopher B. Ruff of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine report on an initial examination of the function of the shape of canine teeth in primates. This is the first published comparative analysis of canine strength for primates.

Understanding more about the function of canine teeth can lead to new models for understanding human evolution. Plavcan has been studying primate teeth and skulls for 24 years and spent four years collecting dental data for this analysis.

... more about:
»Hominid »Plavcan »carnivore »primate »teeth

The researchers compared the size, shape and strength of canine teeth from 144 primates with similar measurements taken from 45 carnivores. They examined the relationship of the size of primates’ canines to body size and the relative strength of the teeth. This comparison could help answer the speculation about the function of male primates’ canine teeth in the competition for females. Are the canines used as weapons or simply for display?

“The reason we wanted to use the carnivores is that we know carnivores use their canines for killing,” Plavcan said. “If primates’ canines are too weak to function as weapons, then they’re all just for show.”

Among anthropoid primates, it is well known that the canine teeth of males are up to four times as long as those of females. The researchers compared the canine teeth of male and female primates.

“If the male’s canines are stronger than the female’s canines that would imply there is sexual selection for strength and that the tooth is actually used as a weapon,” Plavcan said. “Female’s canines are short, and shorter, stubbier objects are harder to break. So, if the long, thin male canines are as strong or stronger than those of the female, that would also suggest they are capable of being used for fighting.”

The results were mixed in an interesting way.

“We found that the primate canines are generally as strong as or stronger than carnivore canines," Plavcan said. “But they are not associated with any sort of estimate of sexual selection.”

Generally the canines of males and females were equally strong. Given that primates have such strong teeth in general, the researchers suggested a couple of possible explanations. It could be that all primate males have strong teeth because of a significant risk to reproductive success for any male who breaks a canine tooth. Or it could be that the strong teeth are due to basic inherited design.

Hominids – the primate family that produced humans – retain body mass sexual dimorphism; that is, males typically have a greater body mass size than females. At the same time, the difference in size in canine teeth between males and females is lost.

“This goes back to the earliest hominids,” Plavcan said. “In fact, one of the few diagnostic characteristics of hominid evolution is reduction in canine size dimorphism while maintaining strong body mass dimorphism.”

For example, gorillas have chunky teeth set in massive bodies. To have canines proportionately as long as other primates, a male gorilla’s canines would have to be 25 centimeters long, and the teeth at the base would then be too wide for his jaw.

“This suggests that there may be an upper limit on canine size in primates simply due to spatial constraints on fitting such teeth in the jaws,” the researchers wrote.

The difference in body size between male and female hominids has been the subject of study because it is an obvious and important trait. Yet there are drawbacks to using body size to understand sexual selection. A change in body size can impact many other aspects of life, including metabolism, feeding patterns and vulnerability to predators. Canine teeth, on the other hand, are a far simpler system.

“With canines, we can go in and effectively construct an experiment that allows us to control for all these other variables and look at only one thing,” Plavcan said. “The same phenomenon that works on the canines, we can translate into the body mass and then into behavioral models for the fossil record.”

Plavcan is an associate professor of anthropology in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas. He and Ruff are authors of “Canine Size, Shape, and Bending Strength in Primates and Carnivores” in the May issue of American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

CONTACT:
J. Michael Plavcan, associate professor, anthropology
J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences
(479) 575-2546, mplavcan@uark.edu

Barbara Jaquish | newswise
Further information:
http://www.uark.edu

Further reports about: Hominid Plavcan carnivore primate teeth

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht NYSCF researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts
18.07.2018 | New York Stem Cell Foundation

nachricht Pollen taxi for bacteria
18.07.2018 | Technische Universität München

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

NYSCF researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts

18.07.2018 | Life Sciences

Machine-learning predicted a superhard and high-energy-density tungsten nitride

18.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

Why might reading make myopic?

18.07.2018 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>