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Among apes, teeth are made for the toughest times
Date:12/17/2009

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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."


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Contact: Chad Boutin
boutin@nist.gov
301-975-4261
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Source:Eurekalert

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