Navigation Links
Among apes, teeth are made for the toughest times

The teeth of some apes are formed primarily to handle the most stressful times when food is scarce, according to new research* performed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The findings imply that if humanity is serious about protecting its close evolutionary cousins, the food apes eat during these tough periodsand where they find itmust be included in conservation efforts.

The interdisciplinary team, which brought together anthropologists from George Washington University (GWU) and fracture mechanics experts from NIST, has provided the first evidence that natural selection in three ape species has favored individuals whose teeth can most easily handle the "fallback foods" they choose when their preferred fare is less available. All of these apesgorillas, orangutans and chimpanzeesfavor a diet of fruit whenever possible. But when fruit disappears from their usual foraging grounds, each species responds in a different wayand has developed teeth formed to reflect the differences.

"It makes sense if you think about it," says GWU's Paul Constantino. "When resources are scarce, that's when natural selection is highly active in weeding out the less fit, so animals without the necessary equipment to get through those tough times won't pass on their genes to the next generation."

In this case, the necessary equipment is the right set of molars. The team examined ape tooth enamel and found that several aspects of molar shape and structure can be explained in terms of adapting to eat fallback foods. For instance, gorillas' second choice is leaves and tree bark, which are much tougher than fruit, while orangutans fall back to nuts and seeds, which are comparatively hard.

For these reasons, the researchers theorized that gorillas would have evolved broader back teeth than a fruit diet would require in order to chew leaves, but orangutans would have thicker enamel to handle the increased stress of crunching seeds.

NIST scientists developed models of how teeth fracture while chewing different foods. By fracturing teeth in the laboratory, they verified fundamental fracture mechanics models incorporating tooth shape and structure. These efforts revealed the effects of food stiffness and how various foods likely would damage ape teeth. "The research at NIST supports our theories and several related ones," Constantino says. "It's likely that fallback foods have influenced jaw and skull shape as well."

Constantino adds that the findings suggest mankind must protect not only forest areas where commonly eaten fruits grow, but also the places where apes' fallback resources appear. While identifying precisely what these resources are is a job for ecologists, he says, the new research shows just how important and influential these foods are in primate ecology.

"Among orangutans, for example, timber companies are harvesting the sources of their fallbacks," Constantino says. "These apes have evolved the right tools to survive on fallback foods, but they need to be able to find these foods in the first place."


Contact: Chad Boutin
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

Related biology news :

1. Acculturation affects smoking cessation success among Latinos
2. Researchers establish common seasonal pattern among bacterial communities in Arctic rivers
3. Carvedilol shown to have unique characteristics among beta blockers
4. Malnutrition among older adults in rural Bangladesh challenges the Millennium Development Goals
5. NOAA report finds flower garden banks sanctuary reefs among healthiest in Gulf
6. Hypertension among lower-status employees lingers well into retirement
7. MCG researcher among first to receive NIH stimulus funding
8. UCLA scientists discover ultrasonic communication among frogs
9. Differences among exercisers and nonexercisers during pregnancy
10. Differences among exercisers and nonexercisers during pregnancy
11. 3 prominent Cell Press journals named among the 100 most influential journals in past 100 years
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/26/2015)... Research and Markets ( ) has ... - Technology and Patent Infringement Risk Analysis" report ... --> Fingerprint sensors using capacitive technology represent ... sensor vendor Idex forecasts an increase of 360% of ... and of the fingerprint sensor market between 2014 and ...
(Date:11/20/2015)... Connecticut , November 20, 2015 ... authentication company focused on the growing mobile commerce market ... CEO, Gino Pereira , was recently interviewed on ... interview will air on this weekend on Bloomberg ... Latin America . --> NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" ...
(Date:11/19/2015)... MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. , Nov. 19, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... authentication market, Frost & Sullivan recognizes BIO-key with the ... Strategy Leadership. Each year, Frost & Sullivan presents this ... comprehensive product line catering to the needs of the ... which the product line meets and expands on customer ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/27/2015)... Kingdom , Nov. 27, 2015 /PRNewswire/--  Mallinckrodt plc ... company, announced today that it has closed the sale ... business to Guerbet (GBT- NYSE Euronext) in a transaction ... encompassed four manufacturing facilities and a total of approximately ... in the St. Louis area. ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... PA (PRWEB) , ... November 27, 2015 , ... ... Technical Program that includes over 2,000 technical presentations offered in symposia, oral ... chemistry and applied spectroscopy, covers a wide range of applications such as, but ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... India , November 27, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... --> Growing popularity of companion diagnostics ... in cancer biomarkers market with pharmaceutical companies ... in-demand companion diagnostic tests. ... --> Complete report on global cancer ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... November 26, 2015 ... Accutest Research Laboratories, a leading ... Organization (CRO), has formed a strategic ... - Temple Health for joint work ... (Photo: ) , --> ...
Breaking Biology Technology: